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Renewable energy supply and demand

Supply and demand

Photo credit Milton CJ

I ReTweeted a couple of posts yesterday from HP’s Ed Gemmell. The posts from Ed were some data about HP’s use of renewable energy in various EU countries. The retweets were:

  • RT @EdGemmell: HP Ireland running on 50% wind power saving 27,000 tonnes CO2
  • RT @EdGemmell: HP in Italy has been running on 100% hydro since Jan09 saving 15,000 CO2 PA
  • RT @EdGemmell: HP in UK has been running on 100% hydro since Feb09 saving 46,000 tonnes CO2 PA and
  • RT @EdGemmell: HP in Germany has been running on 100% hydro since Jan09 saving 37,000 tonnes CO2 per year

Some nice data there and kudos to HP.

Another Twitter user, Thomas Bjelkman replied very quickly with the following response:

@TomRaftery Re HP and hydropower. If the energy mix in the market is the same then the CO2 has only moved from one customer to another.

And, to an extent he is correct. If suppliers in a market generate 200gWh for example, 50% of which is from renewables then you have 100gWh of renewable energy to go around. One co. preferentially buying 10gWh means by definition that there is less renewable energy (100gWh – 10gWh = 90gWh) to go around for others.

However, the flipside is that if companies are preferentially purchasing/looking to purchase renewable energy, this increases demand in the market. And an increased demand signal invariably leads to an increased supply (as suppliers see more demand, it makes sense to invest in more renewable generation to meet the demand).

So, companies who favour renewable energy (and especially if they publish targets to increase the amount of renewables they are purchasing) are de facto helping to increase the penetration of green power on the grid.

More of it, I say.

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April 13th GreenMonk Energy and Sustainability show

Here is a recording of today’s GreenMonk Energy and Sustainability show complete with the chatstream below:

04:31 TomRaftery : About to kick off
04:32 TomRaftery : Can you see & hear me ok?
04:33 TomRaftery : Hello?
04:33 ustreamer-36203 : Hi Tom
04:33 ustreamer-36203 : Andrew Newton of APEsphere here
04:34 ustreamer-36203 : yep, all good
04:35 ustreamer-39040 : I can see and hear ya. Just have to log in – This is Suki
04:37 TomRaftery : http://www.theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/37826
04:37 ustreamer-13870 : Den here..
04:37 ustreamer-13870 : Ola todos
04:39 TomRaftery : http://www.zigbee.org/en/newsletters/2009_04_Newsletter/0409-External.asp#success1
04:40 TomRaftery : http://www.techflash.com/microsoft/Microsoft_aims_for_dramatic_drop_in_its_data-center_energy_usage_42817632.html
04:43 ustreamer-13870 : Wonder if SAP will try doing the same thing as MSFT?
04:44 TomRaftery : http://blogs.zdnet.com/sustainability/?p=307
04:44 Suki_Fuller : I’ve gotten sucked into the Zigbee newsletter – liking this thing
04:46 ustreamer-13870 : RyanAir are the world’s worst airline IMO
04:47 Suki_Fuller : Nah – Delta
04:47 ustreamer-13870 : It’s a flying shopping mall
04:47 TomRaftery : http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/27174.wss
04:48 ustreamer-13870 : I will do almost anything to avoid flying RyanAir (anyhooo – good for them in dropping prices)
04:50 TomRaftery : http://www.communities.hp.com/online/blogs/csremea/archive/2009/04/09/new-global-citizenship-report-now-available.aspx
04:51 TomRaftery : http://redmonk.dekiondemand.com/CSR_Reporting
04:55 Suki_Fuller : They seem to be going backwards in all regards apparently
04:55 ustreamer-36203 : Another Amazon CSR blinder from today: http://www.apesphere.com/story/989/2009/04/13/Is_there_an_anti-gay_glitch_in_the_Amazon_rankings
04:55 TomRaftery : http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2009/03/11/powernap-targets-server-idle-time/
04:55 Suki_Fuller : That better be tap water
04:57 TomRaftery : http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/98163
04:57 TomRaftery : http://blogs.infor.com/insights/2009/04/us-government-focuses-on-energy-efficiency-of-facilities.html
04:59 TomRaftery : http://greenlight.greentechmedia.com/2009/04/07/energyhub-lands-series-a-for-home-energy-dashboard-1344/
05:05 TomRaftery : http://www.energyhub.net/
05:07 TomRaftery : Anyone anything else to talk about?
05:07 Suki_Fuller : Us UK people over here had to get up.
05:07 Suki_Fuller : In US
05:07 Suki_Fuller : UK people in US
05:08 Suki_Fuller : Thank you Tom as always learned much
05:08 TomRaftery : Over and out – thanks everyone for a great show
05:09 TomRaftery : Thank you Suki

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Corporate Social Responsibility – tech companies reviewed!

Corporate Social Responsibility

According to its Wikipedia definition, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, communities and other stakeholders, as well as the environment. This obligation is seen to extend beyond the statutory obligation to comply with legislation and sees organizations voluntarily taking further steps to improve the quality of life for employees and their families as well as for the local community and society at large.

Companies are now starting to report on their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in greater numbers. Drivers for this include the rise in ethical consumerism, socially responsible investing, employee recruitment and loyalty, changing laws and regulations, increased scrutiny and transparency and risk mitigation.

According to the Sustainable Investment Research Analyst’s (SIRAN) 2008 report (pdf warning):

  • 86 of the S&P 100 companies now have corporate sustainability websites, compared to 58 in mid-2005, an increase of 48 percent;
  • 49 of the leading U.S. companies produced a sustainability report in 2007, an increase of 26 percent from 39 in 2005

In an attempt to define standards and make these reports cross-comparable, the Global Reporting Initiative has come up with a sustainability reporting framework. According to Wikipedia:

The GRI Guidelines are the most common framework used in the world for reporting. More than 1000 organizations from 60 countries use the Guidelines to produce their sustainability reports.

A quick search of tech sites reveals:
IBM’s stellar Corporate Responsibility site – IBM’s site has a ton of good information and a downloadable CSR report (pdf) and includes the Global Reporting initiative (GRI) index. If there is a tech company with a better CSR site than this, please tell me, I haven’t found it yet!

From the Dell site you can see dell has been producing Sustainability reports back to 1998 (called Environment reports back then). The 2008 CSR report (pdf) is linked to from the company Values page and is a really good example of how to do these reports well.

SAP’s Sustainability site is pretty bare bones (and though found by Google, I couldn’t find a link to it on the corporate website! Having said that, their Sustainability report (pdf), linked to from their Sustainability site, is very good for a first effort. It includes a GRI index and while SAP admit that the report is prepared to GRI Application Level C, they give a commitment to producing a “report to GRI B+ standard externally assured and audited in second quarter 2009”.

Cisco’s CSR site includes a great 5 minute video on CSR from Cisco CEO John Chambers and some of his CSR related staff. Unfortunately the video is not embeddable and is all rights reserved or I would embed it here šŸ™ Cisco’s CSR 2008 report is available in a Flash interactive version or the more traditional (and easier to consume) pdf version! Again this report has a GRI index included.

Sun’s excellent CSR site includes a podcast, lots of great links to relevant information and its superb 2008 CSR report (pdf) – again with the GRI index data.

Oracle also has a good CSR site. Oracle’s site links to its 2008 Corporate Citizenship report (pdf) but it doesn’t include a GRI index link.

HP’s Global Citizenship site looks good until you check out their CSR report – it dates to financial year 2007 (which ended October 31, 2007). In its defense, it does include a GRI index but guys, come on, 2007?

Neither Intel nor AMD have reports for 2008. But while Intel have a very comprehensive downloadable pdf report on their CSR initiatives for 2007, the AMD offering consists of a disappointing four tables of performance indicators across the last few years.

If you are looking for Microsoft’s CSR report, you will find it buried under Resource Center -> Awards and Reports -> now click on the Reports tab on their Corporate Citizenship site. The most recent report is dated 2007-08. It is a 5 page document of mostly images, there is no mention whatsoever of GRI, there is no executive involvement, and in comparison to previous years reports, it looks like Microsoft’s limited focus on CSR has waned completely.

Having said that, at least Microsoft has produced a report! Apple didn’t even do that. When As You Sow, recently tabled a shareholder resolution that would require Apple to publish a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, The company issued a proxy filing asking shareholders to vote against this resolution, saying that the publication would be an unnecessary expense that would ā€œproduce little added value.ā€

Having said that, at least Apple have a section on their site dedicated to their environmental efforts, Amazon don’t even appear to do that. Their filed reports page makes no effort to include any reports about environmental stewardship or corporate citizenship although given the story which came out before Christmas about Amazon’s shocking employment practices, that can hardly be any surprise.

Ironically Google’s CSR efforts are supremely difficult to find! They do have a corporate website dedicated to their Green Initiatives but like Apple, they too don’t have any CSR report (that I could find!).

Who’d I miss? Who is better? Who is worse?

Original photo by ATIS547

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HP Labs Chris Preist discusses the Climate Futures report

London 2023

Photo credit Enigma Photos

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.

My guest on this podcast is Chris Preist. Chris is a principal scientist at HP Labs, based at HPL’s European research centre in Bristol, UK.

HP Labs and Forum for the Future, together published a report called Climate Futures(6.7MB pdf). This report goes through 5 possible scenarios for how the world will respond to the climate changes we are seeing, or as they say on the Forum for the Future page:

Climate Futures analyses the social, political, economic and psychological consequences of climate change and describes how different global responses to the problem could lead to five very different worlds by 2030.

Chris was one of the authors of the report so I asked him to come on the show to discuss it and what followed was a fascinating discussion.

Download the entire interview here
(20.2mb mp3)

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What is your company’s Sustainability Communications Program like?

Sustainability

Photo credit _ A l v a r o _

I guess the first question should be does your company have a Sustainability Communications Program? If not, why not?

As I mentioned in my last post, it is now time for everyone to

band together not only at national levels, but at company and community levels to do everything we can to work to reduce our impact on the planet. Donā€™t rely on your politicians to do it for you. Get together with friends, neighbours, co-workers and make a change.

So, what is your company doing about sustainability? Some companies invest heavily in this space. Others roll it under the marketing umbrella and still more, don’t even have a sustainability policy.

How do you improve your company’s sustainability policies? I don’t know! But more than likely, you or others in your organisation have great ideas about ways your company can be more environmentally responsible. Why not poll them?

Roll out a bottom-up Sustainability Suggestions Wiki in your organisation today. Most people have excellent ideas on how to improve things in their company but assume they will not be listened to. A wiki allows people to make suggestions in a transparent, meritocratic manner.

Incent people to do so. Give prizes for best suggestions every month. Prizes could be anything from something small like a CFL light bulb, or a Current Cost meter, all the way up to sponsorship of an MBA in Sustainable Business, or any number of things in between.

Go further, video and podcast interviews with winners – make them heroes in the company. The rewards for the company will often be cost savings through efficiencies but also a more highly motivated workforce, who see the company as being responsible and caring of what they (the employees) think.

Enabling bottom-up suggestions in this manner (and subsequently acting on them) promotes a “We are all in this together” spirit and empowers people to make a real difference in the fight against climate change, a difference which they may be unable to make as individuals.

Why wouldn’t you do this?

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The temperature imperative!

Global Temperature Rise

Graph courtesy of the UK’s Climate Research Unit

The graph above, taken from the UK’s Climate Research Unit, is very sobering. I first noticed the graph when Joseph Romm did an excellent analysis of it on his Climate Progress site.

A few points to note from Joe’s piece:

  • * the 2000s are on track to be nearly 0.2Ā°C warmer than the 1990s
  • * since the 1990s were only 0.14Ā°C warmer than the 1980s => global warming is accelerating
  • * 2008, though cooler than most of the 2000s is on track to be almost 0.1Ā°C warmer than the decade of the 1990s as a whole
  • * The 2000s will easily be the hottest decade in recorded history
  • * The ā€œcoming decadeā€ (2010-20) is poised to be the warmest on record, globally
  • * The coming decade is poised to see faster temperature rise than any decade since the authorsā€™ calculations began in 1960
  • * The fast warming would likely begin early in the next decade ā€” similar to the 2007 prediction by the Hadley Center in Science (see ā€œClimate Forecast: Hot ā€” and then Very Hotā€œ)

In case anyone had any doubts that global warming is occurring, this should set those doubts to rest.

Governments are acting too slowly on this. It is up to individuals and companies to take actions to reduce our impact on the planet.

The companies we cover on this blog: IBM, Microsoft, HP, Siemens, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Dell, SAP, Oracle, Nortel, Cisco, etc. are all making significant efforts to reduce their impacts on the planet (or we wouldn’t be covering them!).

However, as the graph above indicates, our way of life is under threat. Now, as George Monbiot says,

We need to resurrect the old-fashioned virtues of uniting in the face of a crisis, of resourcefulness and community action

We all need to band together not only at national levels, but at company and community levels to do everything we can to work to reduce our impact on the planet. Don’t rely on your politicians to do it for you. Get together with friends, neighbours, co-workers and make a change. Today.

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How Dell and HP could learn from each other

Transport fumes
Photo Credit aplumb

I received a press release from HP the other day informing me that HP have

qualified all business PC, printing and server products shipped throughout the United States and Canada for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyā€™s (EPA) SmartWay logo labeling program

Perhaps the SmartWay program is well known within the United States but I hadn’t heard of it before so I went to the SmartWay site to have a look.

From the site’s basic information page:

The SmartWay brand identifies products and services that reduce transportation-related emissions. However, the impact of the brand is much greater as the SmartWay brand signifies a partnership among government, business and consumers to protect our environment, reduce fuel consumption, and improve our air quality for future generations.

The site links to the EPS’a Green Vehicle Guide which allows you to compare the fuel efficiency across hundreds of different car models.

However the real meat is in the Smartway Transport section of the site. This is a

collaboration between EPA and the freight sector designed to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, and improve energy security

So responsible haulage companies can join the Smartway program and get help in becoming more efficient and Smartway certified (joining Smartway is free). Smartway certification then means that as well as reducing costs, responsible shipping companies will pick up extra business from companies like HP who are looking to have a greener supply chain.

However, if HP really wanted to show its commitment to Green they could announce their intention to become a carbon neutral company, as Dell has done.

On the other hand, Dell could take a leaf from HP’s book and also receive approval from the EPA to have the SmartWay logo displayed on its product packaging for the compliance of its shipping network. You are only as Green as your supply chain after all!

[Disclosure – Dell are a GreenMonk client company]

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On HP Labs, Sustainability, Energy Demand Management and Bit Miles

I spent today in Bristol at HP Labs,Ā learning about the company’sĀ relaunch ofĀ its R&D organisation.Ā I came away impressed with the crispness of the new vision. In the past HP Labs came across like anĀ academic organisation, removed from commercial concerns.Ā IĀ am happy to report though thatĀ the new approach and tone seemsĀ much more focused and business like.

From a Greenmonk perspective the real meat came this afternoon when Chandrakant Patel, Director, HP Sustainable IT lab (and dab hand with a sketch pad, which made for lovely slides.) joined the session via web conference.

The conference worked a charm; I found myself nodding along and giving out non-verbal queues to aĀ face filling a six foot screen. TheĀ contrast couldn’t have been starkerĀ with BT’s CSR event this week: the telco’s Boston-based head of videoconferencing didn’t fly back to the UK to avoid the air miles footprint (good), but instead of live conferencing he prerecorded a video (bad). Note to BT-showing can be a lot more effective than telling, especially when you have a room full of influencers ready to be impressed.

The 98%: dematerialise it

But what of HP Lab’s strategy for sustainability? Chandrakant’s first slide carried the same basic message at my own Green stumpĀ speech: that is, IT only accounts for 2% of global energy consumption (and so carbon emissions), wheras theĀ great majority of the problem isĀ found in areas such as buildings and heating, supply chain logistics and transport – the 98%.

IT is a small percent, but it has a unique opportunity to attack the 98% problem.

HP has more skin in the game here than you might think – because of its printing business. While HP didn’t use the term Bit Miles it did talk a lot about “Long Tail Printing”. That is, digital printing at the point of use, avoidingĀ the need to pulp a bunch of copies of some book or magazine noone ever read. Bear in mind that print technology isĀ now moving into three dimensions, so you can potentially print objects not just characters on paper. The potential for print and micro-fabrication to reduce transportation cost is vast. Chandrakant talked about the need to create an “IT ecosystem” for the printing industry, to ensure it is carbon positive rather than negative. The HP Labs’ approach he said was toĀ replace conventional supply chains with sustainable IT ecosystems.

Of course not everything in the vision is new. On the contrary:

“We need to leverage the past to create the future.”

One of the key problems with the 98% is the complexity of the metrics involved. How do we really know, asked Chandrakant, that the carbon used to create the Halo video conference wasn’t greater thanĀ the flight he chose not to take? There is a need for irrefutable metrics. And we don’t have 15 years. HP Labs is now working on prototypes to model and predict the impact of different re-engineering strategies, then measure and monitor the results. “These tools”, said Chandrakant’s UK equivalent Chris Preist, will analyse consumption of available energy and greenhouse gases across the lifecycle.

HP’s vision here is nothing less than to give businesses theĀ tools they needĀ to simulate the greenhouse impacts of potential new products and services.Ā What if I used IBM tools here, or a BT network? What if I chose Apple hardware over Windows laptops? And so on.

This could be an entirely new frontier in product design and lifecycle management.

In order to create these kind of footprint models we’re going to need manufacturing companies to share information about their production and logistics processes. Needless to say I suggested after theĀ briefing that Preist talk to Gavin Starks of AMEE as soon as possible.

Hurry Up I said

When it came to Q&A my question was why such initiatives are in the Lab, rather than in the field. At least one industry- air travel – is no longer viable with oil prices above $80 a barrel. OtherĀ industries won’t be immune to the rise of transportation costs.

Chandrakant responded by contrasting HP’s current approach, going public early, with earlier efforts to persuade data centers to invest in smart cooling technology.

“Unlike in 1998, we need to act fast. This time we’re going out and talking about it immediately.”

Preist added: Why is HP being open and transparent? in order to solve the challenges we have around sustainability we have to scale. Talking of opening up, HP also plans a “Sustainability Hub… “, that is, an online place to share and pool information.

So what about the 2%?

HP does of course have a plan for low carbon data centers, which involves using beams of light rather than wires in data center equipment. This idea is not so far fetched- we’re all used to idea of TV traveling along optical fibre now, so why not bits along a beam? Atoms are cheaper to move than atoms, and photons are cheaper to move than electrons.

Using this photonics approach HP estimates it canĀ make aĀ 75% reduction in carbon footprint for data centers. Not bad for starters! IĀ like HP’sĀ narrative of dematerialisation, whether we’re talking about printed pages or processors. Don’t make things manifest unless you actually need to. That’s a key to sustainability.

“The ultimate goal is photonics, but we need intermediate steps. We have teams beginning to transfer technology but we’re looking for partners, that can co-create in this area… that’s critical.

Greenmonk Take

I came away generally impressed with HP and its progress in sustainability thinking. It has some super bright people thinking far beyond the 2% and ready to work with customers in a range of industries in becoming more sustainable. But even more importantly its increasingly clear the IT industry is not only fully aware of the need to become more sustainable but also is quickly reaching a consensus on how to tackle some of the problems. I see a lot of hope for standards, information sharing, and IP cross-licensing. The public sector may not get it. Manufacturing may not get it. The general public may not get it. But IT – IT gets it. It doesn’t matter whether I am talking to Adobe, IBM, Microsoft, or Sun the agenda is pretty well shared now. The green data center is important but completely overhauled supply chains and ways of living even more so.

disclosure: HP is not a client, but paid my train fare to Bristol. Adobe, IBM, Microsoft and Sun are clients.