post

Friday Green Numbers round-up for April 29th 2011

Green Numbers

And here is a round-up of this week’s Green numbers…

  1. UN agency offers $10,000 cash for green phone application

    The United Nations telecommunications agency has launched a contest that will reward the winner with $10,000 for devising the most innovative ?app,? or mobile telephone application, that tackles the subject of climate change.

    ITU has launched a Green ICT Application Challenge to find the best and most innovative idea for a climate change focused app. The winning concept will be awarded USD10,000, thanks to challenge sponsors Research in Motion (RIM) and Telef?nica.

    As well as the cash prize, the winner will… Read on

  2. Unsure about nuclear power? Here’s the five questions you must answer to decide

    Containing the elemental forces that rage inside a nuclear reactor is one of the great achievements of science, but losing control, as happened 25 years ago on Tuesday at Chernobyl, is one of its greatest failures.

    So what to think of nuclear power? People often ask me if I support or oppose the building of new nuclear power stations, presuming I think that … Read on

  3. Feds: Global warming will cut West’s water 8-14% by 2050

    Even as California seemed to be shaking off the effects of its most recent drought, U.S. officials gave a word of warning Monday: water supplies could drop sharply in coming decades because of global warming.

    A new report from the Bureau of Reclamation says runoff to major western river basins, including the San Joaquin and Colorado that supply California, could drop 8 to 14 percent overall by 2050.

    And while the agency’s projections show that another California water source, the Sacramento River, could see a… Read on

  4. A Battery That Charges in Seconds

    Imagine being able to charge your cell phone in a matter of seconds or your laptop in a few minutes. That might soon be possible, thanks to a new kind of nanostructured battery electrode developed by scientists at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The researchers found that their electrode can charge and discharge up to 100 times faster than existing devices while holding the same amount of energy.

    High-storage batteries that could charge and discharge quickly might make a number of still-marginal technologies much more attractive. For example, if you could recharge an electric car in minutes rather than hours, filling up your battery at a charging station would take no longer than the amount of time it takes to buy a tank of gas. And batteries that gave up their stored energy quickly could mean uninterrupted solar power… Read on

  5. Legalizing Marijuana Could Reduce Its Energy Consumption 75%

    When we found out a couple week ago that the marijuana industry is responsible for 1% of all US electricity consumption, the first and perhaps obvious big question that popped to my mind was how would that figure change if pot was legalized? Surely the electricity bill is so high in part because of the necessity of indoor grow operations to avoid detection.

    Well, as the infographic excerpted below shows, legalization of pot would indeed radically slash the energy footprint of the marijuana industry… Read on

  6. High Gas Prices: Supply and Demand – Efficiency and Better Cars Will Fuel America Faster than Drilling

    The United States consumes 19 million barrels of oil a day, 25 percent of the global supply, but we have less than 2 percent of the world?s proved oil reserves. That means no amount of domestic drilling will reduce gas prices or provide enough to meet America?s daily demand for oil. The only solution: develop better cars and cleaner, safer sources of fuel. By 2025… Read on

  7. America?s Nuclear Nightmare – The U.S. has 31 reactors just like Japan?s ? but regulators are ignoring the risks and boosting industry profits

    The NRC’s “safety-last” attitude recalls the industry-friendly approach to regulation that resulted in the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year. Nuclear reactors were built to last only 40 years, but the NRC has repeatedly greenlighted industry requests to keep the aging nukes running for another two decades: Of the 63 applications the NRC has received for license extensions, it has approved all 63.

    In some cases, according to the agency’s own Office of the Inspector General, NRC inspectors failed to verify the authenticity of safety information submitted by the industry, opting to simply cut and paste sections of the applications into their own safety reviews. That’s particularly frightening given that some of America’s most troubled reactors… Read on

  8. Google?s Clean Energy Projects (7 Big Ones)

    Google is one of the largest clean energy corporate leaders in the U.S. If we had more Googles (and fewer Facebooks or Apples), it looks like we?d have a much brighter future. Hopefully, others will follow Google?s lead sooner than later on this front, or even try to one-up it. For now, though, it?s clean energy enthusiasm and investments are hard to compete with.

    With a number of recent clean energy project announcements… Read on

  9. UK Electric car scheme has only 534 takers

    The government’s hoped-for electric car revolution, jump-started by a ?5,000 purchase grant per vehicle, is getting off to a slow start with just over 500 people signing up to the scheme since it was introduced at the start of the year.

    The figures, revealed in a parliamentary answer by the junior transport minister Norman Baker, show that 534 electric vehicles were registered to the so-called plug-in car grant during the first quarter of 2011. So far, 213 have been delivered.

    The incentive scheme… Read on

You should follow me on Twitter here

Photo credit Tom Raftery

post

Current Cost energy meter reviewed

CurrentCost Envi Energy Meter

Photo credit Tom Raftery

I emailed Chris Dalby of Current Cost a question about their devices a few weeks ago. Chris, not only answered my question but also offered to send me one of their energy monitors to try for myself!

I love my Current Cost Envi 128. It is incredibly straightforward to setup – even I could do it, despite living in an apartment complex with no access to the electricity meter. I had mine up and running within minutes of receiving the delivery (I attached the clamp to the wire going into the fuseboard)!

One of the really great things about the Current Cost energy meters is that they can be connected to a computer. This may not sound like a big deal but it means you can use software from the downloads page to chart your energy usage in real-time as well as for storing historical data. This allows for fascinating comparisons of energy use across different scenarios.

Recently Current Cost announced they were partnering with Google to allow Google’s PowerMeter software to be used with Current Cost meters.

Google PowerMeter

Google PowerMeter

The software for Google PowerMeter is available on the Current Cost site [after registration]. One disappointing aspect of the Powermeter software is that it is Windows only. Fortunately I have Windows installed (via Parallels) on my Mac so this wasn’t a major issue for me.

The biggest issue I came across with the Current Cost Envi and PowerMeter software is, if you want an accurate picture of your energy use, you need to leave your computer turned on running the PowerMeter software all the time! Obviously this is not very energy-efficient!

There is an historical data upload mode on the Envi. This allows you to upload data from the meter to the software in the case that the software wasn’t running (computer powered down, for example) but the historical data stored on the Envi is not at all granular, and worse, it overwrites the granular data which you had previously uploaded!

Current Cost say they are coming out with a Bridge device which will address this problem. Personally rather than forcing people into buying another device, I’d prefer if the software would simply not overwrite good data – that should be a simple software fix. The lack of granularity in the stored data is a tougher fix but I suspect could also be done via a software update of the Envi (while trading off the number of days’ data the Envi could store).

Apart from these niggles, I think the Current Cost energy meters are a superb way to visualise and track your energy consumption, something that is invaluable in helping to better manage your electricity usage.

I mentioned my concerns to Current Cost and asked for comment from them. As soon as they send me their comments, I will publish them here.

You should follow me on twitter here.

post

Oracle’s Turning Information into Power report

Oracle Turning information into power report

Oracle released the results of a research report last week called “Turning Information into Power“.

The report had some interesting findings – from the press release:

Americans are concerned about energy costs and show interest in new energy options.

  1. 94% are concerned with the energy costs of their primary residence.
  2. 95% are interested in receiving detailed information on their energy use.
  3. 76% are interested in renewable energy technologies for their home – and 72% of those respondents state that “reducing personal energy costs” is the most important benefit of renewable energy.

Other interesting findings include:

  1. When asked to give their utility suppliers a grade on their “current ability to provide detailed, useful information on energy consumption,” only 14% of Americans gave their utility an “A.” When grading themselves on the same question, only 16% of utility managers gave their organizations an “A.”
  2. While more than half (58%) of electricity and multi-service utilities surveyed currently offer net metering programs – which allow homeowners to generate their own renewable energy or sell it back to their utilities – just 11% of these utilities say their customers are actively pursuing the programs.

This clearly demonstrates a communications issue between the utilities and their customer base.

While on Smart Grids –

  1. 91% of utility managers believe it is critical that the U.S. adopts smart grid technologies.
  2. 41% of utilities have assessed the opportunity for smart grid technologies and
  3. Utility managers believe “upfront consumer expenses” (42%) and a “lack of consistent industry technology standards” (30%) will be the biggest roadblocks to maximizing benefits of the smart grid

There is a lot of interesting information to digest in this report – mainly though it is good news. The American people want more information on their energy use, they are interested in renewables and microgeneration. The renewables, for their part, believe that rolling out smart grids is critical, provide net-metering programs but don’t, as yet, provide detailed useful information on energy consumption in their bills.

Both sides perceive the biggest obstacle to the rollout of smart grids is financial.

Let’s hope that the $11bn pledged to the implementation of smart grids by the Obama stimulus plan will break down some of these barriers.

I hope to be interviewing Guerry Waters, vice president, industry strategy, Oracle Utilities about this report in the coming weeks, if you have any questions you’d like me to put to Guerry, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

post

Why Smart Grids are good!

I have made no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of Smart Grids and Demand Response programs (properly rolled out, of course!). I have also spoken at various international conferences propounding the benefits of Smart Grids and Demand Response for quite a while now.

You can imagine my disappointment then when I read an article entitled Outsmarting the Smart Grid which was strongly anti-Smart Grids, on The EnergyCollective site by William Tucker, a pro-nuclear writer.

William sets a facetious tone for the article in his opening paragraph:

The latest delusion about energy is the “smart grid.” This bright new technological miracle will once again help us overcome the realities of physics and allow us to live in a world run on wind and sunshine.

The genesis for Mr Tucker’s displeasure appears to be the above GE ad informing people of the benefits of Smart Grids.

He says

It’s fitting that the girl is standing in front of a clothes dryer because that and washing dishes are the only examples anyone has ever been able to come up with about how residential users are going to “redistribute” their energy consumption.

What else can they do? Are they going to wait until after midnight to watch prime-time television? Are they going to heat up dinner at 4 a.m.? Are they going to turn on lights at sunrise instead of sunset? And how about air conditioning, that most voracious consumer of electricity?

Again with the unhelpful sarcasm.

While it is true that not all loads in the home are movable – I use the example that I am highly unlikely to get up at 3am to cook my dinner just because energy is cheaper – there are more than just the dish washer and the dryer. Mr Tucker neglects to mention here air conditioning (though he does mention it elsewhere in his post so he is aware of it). Nor does he mention heating water in an immersion, refrigeration, PHEVs or storage heaters for example – all very movable residential loads. Of course, he neglects to mention industrial scale demand response altogether!

Mr Tucker then re-defines the Smart Grid to suit his argument

the underlying presumption of the smart grid is that it will somehow help us conserve significant amounts of energy

Uh, no it isn’t. The presumption of the Smart Grid is that it will more closely align demand with supply, thereby stabilising the grid and facilitating the further penetration of renewables onto it, thereby lowering our carbon footprint. The Smart 2020 report (7mb pdf) estimates that Smart Grids will reduce CO2 by 2.03 GtCO2e by 2020.

Mr Tucker seems hell-bent though on criticising Smart Grids for not reducing consumption quoting from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) “The Green Grid,” study published last June

its most optimistic prediction was that by 2030 we could reduce electrical consumption by 7 to 11 percent below what is now being projected. That’s not an absolute reduction in consumption but only a slowing of its anticipated rise. Second, as the study concludes, “shift[ing] load from on-peak to off-peak periods may not necessarily save energy.” It will only save money. And when you make electricity cheaper, people may consumer more of it.

What Mr Tucker is again conveniently forgetting is that electrical consumption is not the problem, per se. The problem occurs when that energy is generated using coal, oil or some other non-renewable form.

In fact, there are times when we have too much electricity and you are increasingly seeing wind farms curtailed as a result of this phenomenon. Instead of curtailing wind energy when we have an excess, what we should be doing is demand stimulation – stimulating people to increase their demand at this time of excess supply. This can be achieved by dropping the price of electricity to 0 or even making it negatively priced and making that information available via Demand Response programs rolled out over Smart Grids.

Mr Tucker concludes by once more poking fun at the GE ad

In that light, it’s worth going back to that last little GE vignette where the girl says, “It’s sunny in Arizona.” She is standing at a window looking at a waxing half moon about three hours above the horizon. If she’s in the Midwest, that means the sun has already set in Arizona. If she’s on the East Coast, then it’s about to go down. She’d better get to bed because in another twenty minutes the lights, refrigerator, television, computers and everything else are going to turn off.

Meeting pointless pedantry with more pointless pedantry, the girl is looking at a street light, not a waxing moon.

Mr Tucker’s main argument is that Smart Grids won’t necessarily reduce consumption so we shouldn’t bother with them.

Energy is very abstract, no-one really cares how much they use. What they do care about is the utility bill at the end of the month and increasingly, the carbon footprint of that consumption. If I consume 10 TeraWatt hours in my home daily (not possibly obviously!), as long as it has a negligible carbon footprint, so what?

What Smart Grids and intelligent Demand Response programs will do is, massage the demand for electricity so that it lines up with the supply. This stabilises the grid for the ISO (the grid operator) allowing them to add even more variable generation sources (i.e. renewables) to the system lowering costs and carbon footprints. Win, win.

The discussion continues in the comments where Mr Tucker rails against Demand Response

Now that I think about it, here’s what’s going to happen if the utility can cut off 1/6th of its air conditioning load on a rotating basis. If people know this – which they will – they’re just going to run their air conditioning a little higher while it’s on in order to compensate for the 1/6th of the time it’s off. It’s like the low-flush toilets that you have to flush twice to do the job.

However, for once he has a valid point!

This is why when you roll out Demand Response programs, you put the control directly in the hands of the consumer. The top-down, command and control utility attitude of “we’ll turn off your aircon when it suits us” will only turn people against Demand Response.

Instead, you roll out home area networks and home energy portals where people decide themselves how they want their devices to respond to pricing signals. You’d be able to program your dishwasher to wash the dishes when electricity at 6c/KWh or 6am, which ever came sooner, for example. If you put the washer on at 8pm, for the most part, as long as the dishes are washed by 7am the following morning, you don’t care when it happens.

Similarly with your immersion, if it selectively heats the water when electricity drops below either a set price or a set temperature, as long as you have enough hot water, you are happy.

Obviously any home energy portal like this would allow the home owner full control over all the devices in the house because they belong to the home owner, not the utility!

Long term, what I want to see happen is, I want utilities to publish their generation mix (% coal, % natural gas, % oil, % hydro, % chg, % wind, etc.), as well their prices, in realtime. That way I should be able not only to control my devices but also have the ability to select the Greenest utility supplier dynamically at any time – now that’s a Smart Grid well worth having.

post

Greenmonk’s Inaugural Cool Award: Fujitsu Siemens


A couple of months ago I got the chance to chat with Fujitsu Siemens Computer’s chief technology officer (CTO), Dr Joseph Reger, who leads the company’s sustainability initiatives. We went over a fair amount of ground, but one thing that stuck with me was a new technology that came to the market last month – monitors that consume zero power when on standby. Let me just say that again – computer monitors that consumer zero watts on standby. When not in use DC power shuts down completely.
Anyone that has checked the power consumption of their electronic devices, using a Kill-a-Watt monitor, for example, knows just how greedy devices on standby can be (TVs and set-top boxes = bad news). And we have a lot of them in every home and office. According to FSC’s press release:

“Reducing European Union-wide power consumption through the adoption of electrical goods that use zero watts in standby mode would save an estimated 35 Terawatt hours per year according to the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung) – while the EU Stand-by Initiative reports estimates that stand-by power accounts for about 10 percent of the electricity use in homes and offices of the EU Member States.”

In other words, standby power is a problem very much worth solving. This is innovation at work and I commend the engineers at FSC for their efforts. Now if they can just apply the same technology to every other device I use…

When I first heard about the SCENICVIEW ECO device, I thought it had to be worth an award. So I thought why not award it? We need to work out what the COOL award means (Greenmonk probably needs a logo, for it, for example), but for now I would just like to say well done FSC – and congratulations. You are worthy winners of the first Greenmonk cool award for finding ways to lower global carbon emissions and energy consumption.

post

IBM’s Vik Chandra on how software can help reduce your carbon footprint

IBM Green Data Center in Second Life
The IBM Green Data Center in Second Life

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Episode 2 of the GreenMonk Podcasts – 27 mins 27 secs

My guest on this podcast is IBM’s Vik Chandra. According to IBM Vik

is currently responsible for Market Management and Strategy for IBM software offerings that enable organizations to reduce their energy consumption and environmental impact. IBM’s software group offers middleware from its Tivoli, Rational, WebSphere, Lotus and Information Management brands.

I was interested to know how Vik felt software could help companies reduce their carbon footprint so I invited him to come on the show to discuss this and also to answer questions I solicited from readers of this site.

Here are the questions I asked Vik and the approx. times I asked them:

It is easy to see how more efficient hardware can help drop a company’s energy use but how is software helping companies reduce their carbon footprint? – 00:20

Demand response – the ability to have devices adjust their settings dynamically in response to pricing signals from utilities etc is recently gaining a lot of attention. Is this something IBM are looking into? 03:23

Questions from readers:

Chris Dalby
Are there any plans to expand the current cost craze that has hit Hursley? With rising energy and utility costs in general, are there plans to help companies intelligently manage and automate their energy infrastructure using mqtt? – 05:57


Alan in Belfast

As CPU/core speeds increase, software has become more and more processor hungry, driving up heat, fan, power etc. Energy efficient machines – even Eee PC 1000s! – start to alter the processor speed to keep power demands down. Are IBM serious about de-bloating their software to make it more light-weight? And do they have any feel for whether that could make a 1% difference or a 20% difference to desktop/laptop/server power usage? – 08:14

Is it more efficient to build features into hardware or software? A lot of the enterprise monitoring software that gets installed to instrument PCs/servers runs continuously. Better to make lighter hardware modules to do the same? Is there a day when a Linux-on-a-chip (etc) will be embedded in PCs/servers as a more energy-efficient method of performing these tasks? (Bring back the PIC chip!) – 10:28

Jim Spath
We’re moving toward more virtualization, currently running IBM AIX on Power5 LPARs, starting to run virtual CPUs, memory, storage and I/O. What are the limiting factors for software licensing in such a landscape? It seems we save money on hardware but pay more for software that could run in different frames.
I think Linux is a partial answer, but there are corporate concerns with having multiple OS images, not to mention uneasiness about GNU and BSD license models. – 14:23

Jim Hughes
I see plenty of power management software going into desktop and laptop PCs (clock slowing, fans that run only when necessary etc.), but precious little into servers.

As many enterprises appear to be shuffling ever more equipment into noisy, over heating server rooms, surely power (and noise) management should be a big issue here.

Are IBM ignoring servers because they’re hidden away from all but the long suffering sys admins? – 17:01

Ed Gemmell
Of the $1 billion IBM said they would invest in Green IT. How much has already been invested (can we see it in the financials?) and how much has been in Software. What do you have to show for the $1billion so far? – 21:31

Uldis Boj?rs
It would be interesting to learn more about what is IBM’s experience and lessons learned in enterprise use of new social media and collaboration tools such as microblogging and virtual 3D worlds. – 25:58

Download the entire interview here
(25.1mb mp3)

post

Build carbon software efficiently (practice what you preach!)

motion gears -team force
Photo Credit ralphbijker

I have been having some very interesting conversations with people in the carbon software sector these last couple of weeks.

The first was with Michael Meehan of Carbonetworks (which I blogged about here) and we discussed their offering which is a “carbon strategy platform”. From my blog post about Carbonetworks:

The app at its most basic helps companies understand what their carbon footprint is, and then helps the companies translate that into a financial bottom line. The app helps companies see what options they have to reduce their carbon footprint and helps them create a carbon strategy from a managerial perspective on how to proceed in the carbon market.

Then I talked to Stefan Guertzgen, Marketing Director for Chemicals and Franz Hero, vp, chemical industry business unit both at SAP. They were talking about the SAP Environmental Compliance application which, in their words:

enables companies to gather information on the use of energy, in all its forms, throughout the enterprise, identify areas for energy reduction, monitor the implementation of energy excellence projects, and make the results available throughout the enterprise

Earlier this week I was talking to Kevin Leahy, who is a director in IBM’s IT Optimization Business Unit about IBM’s House of Carbon for which they have also developed carbon reporting software for their client base.

Finally, yesterday I was speaking to Gavin Starks, founder and CEO of AMEE. We have talked about AMEE several times before on this blog. AMEE is an open-source, neutral, platform for

measuring the Energy Consumption of everything… aggregates “official” energy metrics, conversion factors and CO2 data from over 150 countries… is a common platform for profiling and transactions (there’s a transaction engine at the core of AMEE)

Noticing a common thread here? Guys, stop re-inventing the wheel.

IBM and SAP (and anyone else thinking of embarking on carbon software) STOP NOW! It has already been done and done well by companies with open api’s (and open data in AMEE’s case).

Get on the phone to Carbonetworks and AMEE, and instead of building another carbon app, use their already comprehensive infrastructures and api’s to get a jump-start and bring best-of-breed carbon software to market efficiently!

post

Any questions for Vik Chandra?

Questions
Photo Credit oberazzi (Tim O’Brien)

We have started a podcast series here on GreenMonk. As part of the process, when I can, I will be posting ahead of time who I will be interviewing. This will give readers an opportunity to have me put questions on their behalf during the podcast.

The first such interview will take place next Wed, August 13th and the interviewee will be IBM’s Vik Chandra. According to IBM Vik

is currently responsible for Market Management and Strategy for IBM software offerings that enable organizations to reduce their energy consumption and environmental impact. IBM’s software group offers middleware from its Tivoli, Rational, WebSphere, Lotus and Information Management brands. Core capabilities include service management from Tivoli, application servers and runtime infrastructure from WebSphere, database, information management and business intelligence from Information Management, collaboration from Lotus and software development and delivery from Rational.

We will be discussing ways in which IBM software can be used by companies to reduce their carbon footprint.

If you have any questions/suggestions you’d like me to put to Vik in the podcast, please leave them in a comment to this post or email them to tom@redmonk.com before Wed August 13th at 2pm GMT.