Sustainability, social media and big data

The term Big Data is becoming the buzz word du jour in IT these days popping up everywhere, but with good reason – more and more data is being collected, curated and analysed today, than ever before.

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter announced last week that Twitter is now publishing 500 million tweets per day. Not alone is Twitter publishing them though, it is organising them and storing them in perpetuity. That’s a lot of storage, and 500 million tweets per day (and rising) is big data, no doubt.

And Facebook similarly announced that 2.5 billion content items are shared per day on its platform, and it records 2.7 billion Likes per day. Now that’s big data.

But for really big data, it is hard to beat the fact that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider creates 1 petabyte of information every second!

And this has what to do with Sustainability, I hear you ask.

Well, it is all about the information you can extract from that data – and there are some fascinating use cases starting to emerge.

A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene found that Twitter was as accurate as official sources in tracking the cholera epidemic in Haiti in the wake of the deadly earthquake there. The big difference between Twitter as a predictor of this epidemic and the official sources is that Twitter was 2 weeks faster at predicting it. There’s a lot of good that can be done in crisis situations with a two week head start.

Another fascinating use case I came across is using social media as an early predictor of faults in automobiles. A social media monitoring tool developed by Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business can provide car makers with an efficient way to discover and classify vehicle defects. Again, although at early stages of development yet, it shows promising results, and anything which can improve the safety of automobiles can have a very large impact (no pun!).

GE's Grid IQ Insight social media monitoring tool

GE have come up with another fascinating way to mine big data for good. Their Grid IQ Insight tool, slated for release next year, can mine social media for mentions of electrical outages. When those posts are geotagged (as many social media posts now are), utilities using Grid IQ Insight can get an early notification of an outage in its area. Clusters of mentions can help with confirmation and localisation. Photos or videos added of trees down, or (as in this photo) of a fire in a substation can help the utility decide which personnel and equipment to add to the truckroll to repair the fault. Speeding up the repair process and getting customers back on a working electricity grid once again can be critical in an age where so many of our devices rely on electricity to operate.

Finally, many companies are now using products like Radian6 (now re-branded as Salesforce Marketing Cloud) to actively monitor social media for mentions of their brand, so they can respond in a timely manner. Gatorade in the video above is one good example. So too are Dell. Dell have a Social Media Listening Command Centre which is staffed by 70 employees who listen for and respond to mentions of Dell products 24 hours a day in 11 languages (English, plus Japanese, Chinese, Portugese, Spanish, French, German, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and Korean). The sustainability angle of this story is that Dell took their learnings from setting up this command centre and used them to help the American Red Cross set up a similar command centre. Dell also contributed funding and equipment to help get his off the ground.

No doubt the Command Centre is proving itself invaluable to the American Red Cross this week mining big data to help people in need in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Deeply embedding social media and gamification into utility companies

I was asked by the MediaLab Prado to give an updated version of my Energy 2.0 talk at their Visualizar11 – Understanding Infrastructures event in Madrid during the week.

I took the opportunity to update the deck with some of the thoughts I presented at the International SAP for Utilities event around deeply embedding social media into utility companies.

At the Visualizar11 event I talked about how utility companies will need to use gamification and competitions to pique customers’ interest in energy savings and to keep their engagement levels high. Even more importantly, done well, this will greatly extend the Mean Time to Kitchen Drawer (MTKD – the time it takes for people to get bored with an app and metaphorically stuff it in the kitchen drawer).

I was delighted then yesterday when IBM tipped me off that they are collaborating with three US utilities (CenterPoint, Oncor and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)) to launch the Biggest Energy Saver contest to help people better understand smart meter data.

In fact, there are two Biggest Energy Saver contests – one for customers to encourage them to reduce their energy consumption with a grand prize of an electric vehicle or a first-prize of a suite of GE smart home appliances in the Oncor and CenterPoint Energy service territories.

The second competition is for software developers to develop apps to help customers understand and use the information from their smart meters – this competition has potential prizes totalling up to $150,000. Serious money!

All of the details of the competitions have yet to be announced – but to really knock it out of the park, the customer competition should have social media and gamification throughout – using FourSquare-like principles of awarding badges for people who attain certain target reductions, having leaderboards, the ability to share your exploits on your social network(s) of choice, etc.

I’m giving the closing plenary keynote at the SAP for Utilities event in San Antonio this coming September where I’ll be going into these topics in a lot more detail so expect more on this here in the coming months.

Friday Green Numbers round-up for Jan 14th 2011

Green Numbers

And here are this week’s Green numbers…

  1. 2010 ties 2005 for warmest year on record

    Last year tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record for global surface temperature, US government scientists said in a report on Wednesday that offered the latest data on climate change.

    The Earth in 2010 experienced temperatures higher than the 20th century average for the 34th year in a row, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

    Overall, 2010 and 2005 were 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit (0.62 Celsius) above the 20th century average when taking a combination of land and water surface temperatures across the world, it said.

    Those two years were also the highest in temperature since record-keeping began in 1880.

    Last year was the wettest on record, NOAA said citing Global Historical Climatology Network which made the calculation based on global average precipitation, even though regional patterns varied widely.

    When it came to hurricanes and storms, the Pacific Ocean saw the fewest number of hurricanes and named storms, three and seven respectively, since the 1960s.

    But the Atlantic Ocean told a different story, with 12 hurricanes and 19 named storms, which include tropical storms and depressions, marking the second highest number of hurricanes on record and third highest for storms.

  2. IBM Reveals Five Innovations That Will Change Our Lives in the Next Five Years

    IBM formally unveiled the fifth annual “Next Five in Five” ? a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years:
    ? You’ll beam up your friends in 3-D
    ? Batteries will breathe air to power our devices
    ? You won?t need to be a scientist to save the planet
    ? Your commute will be personalized
    ? Computers will help energize your city

  3. Chris Tuppen’s 20 year CRS reflection

    Chris left BT after a long and influential career in the company to pursue new pastures in sustainability. He kindly agreed to provide some personal reflections after a 20 year career in the field.

    Reflecting back over twenty years of corporate sustainability and then attempting to summarise that into a 500 word blog is an almost impossible task.

    Much has changed. Twenty years ago…

  4. GE buys 3rd energy co. in 3 months – Lineage Power for $520m

    General Electric has made its first move into the fast-growing business of cutting electricity consumption by the telecoms and computer industries, buying Lineage Power for $520m from The Gores Group, a private equity firm.

    The deal is GE?s third acquisition of an energy business in the past three months, as the group implements its plan to focus on infrastructure markets and reduce its reliance on financial services.

  5. Top 10 Carbon Reporting Trends in 2010

    Corporate greenhouse gas emissions reporting continues to evolve at a rapid pace. As we celebrate the New Year, it’s instructional to take the opportunity to reflect on the highlights of 2010 and their impact on this market. Many of the changes are healthy as sustainability and emissions reporting moves away from “feel good” disclosures towards risk identification and competitive advantage.

    Here is my list of the top 10 Carbon Reporting Trends in 2010…

  6. Siemens constructing 65km 2GW HVDC line between France and Spain

    Siemens Energy is currently erecting the power converter stations for a high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission link between Baixas, to the west of Perpignan in France, and Santa Llogaia, south-west of Figueras in Spain, as important components of the Trans-European Network for electrical power. The installation can transmit a rated power of 2000 megawatts (MW) ? enough to transport large amounts of electric power with a minimum of transmission losses.

  7. Why Greentech Money Is Sliding From Supply to Demand

    With 2010 finally behind us, and a full year of data to play with, it appears that green technology investments are firmly shifting from the supply side of the equation to the demand side. In other words, solar and wind power were on the outs last year, and energy efficiency was the up-and-comer.

    That?s the conclusion I draw in my weekly update at GigaOm Pro (subscription required), and while it may not come as a surprise to industry watchers, it?s nice to have some numbers to back it up. Although solar startups continued to draw the most money in venture capital investment last year, energy efficiency startups garnered…

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Photo credit millicent_bystander

Green bits and bytes for Jan 13th 2011

Green bits

Some of the Green announcements which passed by my desk this week:

  1. Invensys IMServ, a UK-based carbon and energy solution provider has launched a new programme to help UK schools increase their energy efficiency, reduce their carbon footprint and save money on their energy bills.
  2. SAP Americas was named 2010 Smart Grid Integrator of the Year 2010, North America by The New Economy.
  3. Enterprise energy management company JouleX has upgraded its network-based agentless product JEM to version 2.5. The new version supports a broader set of IT infrastructure devices, improves energy measurement and accuracy, JouleX Mobile allows employees to become more engaged in company’s sustainability initiatives, “load adaptive computing” allocates computing resources based upon system and application utilisation and has significantly upgraded its reporting capabilities.
  4. Tropos Networks, a company which sells wireless broadband network infrastructure, announced the other day that they were selected by more utilities as the company of choice for their smart grid communications infrastructure than any other vendor. Tropos’ CEO Tom Ayers, whom I video interviewed previously here, said

    I expect that 2011 will be a banner year of growth for our company and smart grid deployments globally.

    Good for them!

  5. UK based Greenstone Carbon Management made me aware recently that Asian-based investment bank Nomura have selected Greenstone’s Acco2unt carbon accounting software to help measure, manage and report its carbon emissions across the Bank?s operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
  6. After a successful pilot, ARRA recipient Burbank Water and Power (BWP) has selected energy management company Trilliant to implement its smart metering communications infrastructure. Trilliant is partnering with GE for meters, eMeter for Meter Data Management, and Siemens for integration. BWP will utilise Trilliant?s solution to help manage service requests, customer inquiries, meter reading and service interruptions.

Photo credit lissalou66

Friday Green Numbers round-up 07/30/2010

Green Numbers

Photo credit Lauren Manning

And here are this week’s Green Numbers:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

GE’s U.S. Consumer Impressions of the Smart Grid survey

Results of GE Smart Grid consumer survey

GE published a U.S. Consumer Impressions of the Smart Grid [pdf] survey* recently.

I spoke to the general manager of Metering and Sensing Systems for GE?s Digital Energy business, Luke Clemente about the survey and he told me that the main points of the survey were:

  • 96% of Americans who are familiar with the smart grid are overwhelmingly positive about the technology and what it will do for the country
  • while only 2% thought that smart grid was not a smart investment by utilities and/or consumers
  • 80% of U.S. consumers are excited about upgrading the electrical network with smart grid so that their country can rely more on clean domestic energy sources
  • 78% think that the smart grid would help reduce the number of power outages and restore power more quickly when outages do occur
  • 74% understand that the smart grid will give them the info they need to make better decisions about electricity usage
  • 72% think the smart grid will help them save money on their monthly bills
  • 63% believe the smart grid will create new jobs in the energy sector
  • 66% agree they would buy smart appliances and other in-home devices to maximize their control over energy once smart grid rolls out in their community

In our follow-up conversation Luke said

One of the awareness issues which needs to be driven, is that it does cost more to generate electricity at two o’clock in the afternoon than it does at 2am. To the extent that we can shift our use of energy to less intensive times, that will end up driving better utilisation of the grid and better economics

Luke went on to mention the Department of Energy’s year-long study which showed that consumers, when given information on their electricity consumption, reduced their bills by 10% and reduced peak demand by 15%.

There are three crucial points here –
consumers have quite a positive attitude to Smart Grids
consumers will adjust their behaviour when given information related to their energy use and
that response is good for the grid (and by extension, for its users).

We have seen some instances where utilities failure to communicate effectively with their customers has led to blowback against Smart Meter and Smart Grid projects.

However, as this survey shows, overall consumer sentiment to Smart Grids is positive. Utility companies need to beware that they don’t squander this goodwill – right now it is theirs to lose.

You should follow me on twitter here.

* The survey was conducted in March 2010 by StrategyOne among a census representative sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers via telephone. The margin of error for the sample of U.S. consumers (n=1,000) is + 3.1% at the 95% level of confidence.

Friday Green Numbers round-up 07/16/2010

Green Numbers

Photo credit XcBiker

And here are this week’s Green Numbers:

    Smart Grids

  • GE wants to spark a revolution in the way we create and distribute electricity, and seizing on a critical underfunding of grid investments by the U.S. government (a paltry $3.4 billion) the 2nd largest company in the world (as ranked by Forbes) wants to do something about it.

    GE is partnering with four major venture capital firms, including Al Gore-advised Kleiner Perkins, to issue the $200 million challenge to “…businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students to share their best ideas and come together to take on one of the world?s toughest challenges ? building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

    tags: ge greennumbers electricity $200 million challenge smart grid

  • The smart grid has been a lumbering but steady and inevitable presence in the utility industry, with a speedy uptake in the number of start-ups interested in creating everything from energy storage technology to user dashboards for home energy consumption and a somewhat slower uptake in the number of smart grid pilot projects popping up nationwide. Less than two years ago it was expected to grow to at least $65 billion by 2013. Cisco has identified at least $20 billion in potential business opportunities around the grid, which the company says will be bigger than the Internet, and $3.4 billion of stimulus money was to be dished out to 100 projects. So why the projection from Pike Research that the spending will top off at $35 billion by 2013?

    tags: greennumbers smart grid investments spending

  • Trilliant Incorporated, a leader in delivering Smart Grid solutions that enhance energy efficiency, utility operations, and renewable resource integration, today announced that it has closed financing totaling $106 million from a global syndicate of industry and financial leaders.

    The financing round was led by two highly-respected financial investors, Investor Growth Capital (the wholly-owned venture arm of Investor AB of Sweden) and VantagePoint Venture Partners and two leading global grid-related equipment companies, ABB and GE. The financing, which was coordinated by Deutsche Bank, also includes a significant credit facility from a major venture credit provider as well as continuing financial support from existing investors MissionPoint Capital Partners and zouk ventures. The new investment will be used to finance Trilliant?s continued growth in North America and globally.

    tags: trilliant smart grid financing round investment greennumbers

  • Policy and Regulation:

  • An excellent article by the UK climate change secretary, German federal environment minister and French environment minister:
    Europe’s current focus on recovery from recession must not distract us from the question of what kind of economy we want to build. Unless we set our countries on a path to a sustainable low-carbon future, we will face continued uncertainty and significant costs from energy price volatility and a destabilising climate.\nThis is why we today set out our belief that the European Union should raise its emissions target. A reduction of 30 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 would represent a real incentive for innovation and action in the international context. It would be a genuine attempt to restrict the rise in global temperatures to 2?C – the key climate danger threshold – stiffening the resolve of those already proposing ambitious action and encouraging those waiting in the wings. It would also make good business sense….

    tags: europe eu low carbon emissions 30% 20% carbon greennumbers

  • “The new Coalition Government has pledged to be the ?greenest government ever? and has committed to reduce carbon emissions across the central Government estate by 10% within 12 months. Launched at the end of May, our Central Government Carbon Management Service is already working with twenty one Central Government bodies to help them meet this challenge.”

    tags: uk govt greennumbers central Government estate Central Government Carbon Management Service

  • The state-owned electric transmission company in China, State Grid, has moved forward with establishing a set of industry rules, standards and favored technologies for the growing smart grid industry in China. But the aggressive move to establish industry standards has competitors in the nascent smart grid sector a bit concerned.

    tags: china smart grid state grid greennumbers

  • Sustainability

  • Seven ‘Triads of Sustainability’ – where seven issues (participation, decision-making, partnership, governance, knowledge and information, continual improvement, and lifestyles) leading to sustainability are explained in detail with case studies . These triads are key ingredients that define and drive sustainability, particularly at the local level.

    tags: sustainability triads Seven Triads of Sustainability greennumbers

  • Eurosif partnered with EIRIS for the Remuneration theme report.

    Research highlights and recommendations for shareholders and regulators include:

    ?- 29% of FTSE Eurofirst300 listed companies have some commitment to linking remuneration to ESG performance ? although concerns exists around the extent to which performance targets are set as ?soft targets? thereby guaranteeing a minimum level of bonus
    ?- Financial institutions account for 23% of the FTSE Eurofirst300 index but only 16% of financial institutions have an ESG-linked remuneration system
    ?- Shareholders should engage with companies by voting against unacceptable remuneration packages and calling for and taking part in shareholder dialogue in determining remuneration policy,
    ?- Regulators should promote active dialogue between companies and shareholders by legislating for a binding ?say on pay? vote and setting appropriate guidelines to promote good remuneration practices and disclosure.

    The report examines critical challenges and opportunities for companies in relation to remuneration, incentives and long-term sustainability.

    tags: remuneration remuneration report eurofirst300 greennumbers

  • Companies could be asked to publish details of their environmental and social impacts alongside their financial accounts under new rules being discussed with the organisations that set accounting standards.

    News of the initiative ? which would mean that businesses have to account for the impacts they have on local water quality, plants and animals ? emerged as a major report for the UN is published today. It warns that companies are causing vast damage to the “living fabric of this planet”, raising threats to society and their own profits, but also that the business opportunities to make money from improving the environment are forecast to quadruple over the next decade.

    tags: environmental impacts social impacts csr corporate reporting greennumbers accounting standards

  • AT&T today announced the deployment of the 2,000th alternative fuel vehicle and 1,500th compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle in its corporate vehicle fleet, giving it one of the largest CNG vehicle fleets in the U.S. These milestones are part of a $565 million planned investment announced in March 2009 to replace more than 15,000 fleet vehicles with alternative fuel models through 2018. Currently, the AT&T corporate fleet includes more than 75,900 vehicles.

    AT&T anticipates purchasing approximately 8,000 CNG vehicles over a five-year span, at an anticipated cost of $350 million. AT&T expects to spend an additional $215 million through 2018 to replace 7,100 fleet passenger cars with alternative fuel models. According to the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), AT&T’s alternative fuel vehicle initiative will:

    – Save 49 million gallons of gasoline over the 10-year deployment period.
    – Reduce carbon emissions by 211,000 metric tons ? the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing 147,929 passenger vehicles from the road for one year.

    tags: at&t att cng compressed natural gas vehicle fleet greennumbers

  • Renewables

  • Earlier this week, Morocco?s King Mohammed VI officially inaugurated a wind farm in the town of Melloussa.?? With 165 turbines and a production capacity of 140 megawatts, the farm is touted as Africa?s largest wind farm. Besides significantly reducing CO2 emissions, the farm is expected to save over 125,000 metric tons of oil annually.

    tags: morocco wind farm greennumbers

  • Germany could derive all of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050 and become the world’s first major industrial nation to kick the fossil-fuel habit, the country’s Federal Environment Agency said today.

    The country already gets 16% of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources ? three times’ higher than the level it had achieved 15 years ago.

    “A complete conversion to renewable energy by 2050 is possible from a technical and ecological point of view,” said Jochen Flasbarth, president of the Federal Environment Agency.

    “It’s a very realistic target based on technology that already exists ? it’s not a pie-in-the-sky prediction,” he said.

    tags: germany electricity renewable energy greennumbers fossil fuel

  • Is shutting down offshore drilling more risky than carrying on? What about jobs that real families depend on? Do we have to choose between dolphins and employment? What are the real issues in the Gulf? Here?s 10 Questions that were fielded by Andy Sharpless, the CEO of Oceana at a recent TedxOilSpill conference. We?ve let Andy speak in his own voice here unedited.

    tags: Andy Sharpless TedxOilSpill oilspill offshore drilling greennumbers

  • A lead congressional committee investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has broadened its inquiry, now checking if tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells are leaking or even being monitored for leaks.

    tags: salazar oilspill Gulf of Mexico oil wells gas wells abandoned oil wells greennumbers

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

You should follow me on twitter here.

Friday Morning Green Numbers round-up 04/16/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

And here is this week’s Green numbers:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Google and GE joining forces on clean energy

In the above video Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google interviews Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO, GE.

The reason Google and GE were talking? Google and GE jointly announced the other day that they are coming together “to help develop tomorrow’s power generation, transmission and distribution — known as the “smart grid” — and its interface with next generation electric transportation”.

From the release:

The existing U.S. infrastructure has not kept pace with the digital economy and the hundreds of technology opportunities that are ready for market. In fact, the way we generate and distribute electricity today is essentially the same as when Thomas Edison built the first power plant well over one hundred years ago. Americans should have the choice to drive more fuel efficient cars – or even electric cars – and manage their home energy use to reduce costs, and buy power from cleaner sources, or even generate their own power for sale to the grid.

We all receive an electricity bill once a month that encourages little except prompt payment. What if, instead, we had access to real-time information about home energy use? What if our flat screen TVs, electronic equipment, lights and appliances were programmed to automatically adjust to save money and cut energy use? What if we could push a button and switch the source of our homes’ electricity from fossil fuels to renewable energy? What if the car sitting in our garage ran on electricity – the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline – and was programmed to charge at night when electricity is cheapest?

This is spectacular news! GE are the largest player in the power industry in the US. Their product line covers every aspect of power generation, transmission, distribution and consumption. And GE have an enviable record in renewables. They are the largest manufacturer of wind turbines globally having purchased Enron’s wind business out of bankruptcy for $300m and turned that into an asset generating between $7-$8bn in 2008!

Google get Demand Response. Coming from an Internet background as they do, they know all about the read/write web, p2p and publish and subscribe mechanisms – these are going to be the cornerstone of Electricity 2.0 as espoused by Eric Schmidt and Google in their release, and by me as I write about them regularly on this blog!

In fact, I am giving a talk at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin on Oct 23rd entitled “Electricity 2.0 – Using The Lessons Of the Web To Improve Our Energy Networks” – this builds on the Keynote I gave there last year on using demand response to reduce our carbon footprint.