PwC Low Carbon Index Report is a call to arms for decarbonisation

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is the world’s largest professional services firm, and the largest of the “big four” accountancy firms. As such, it is by definition, a careful, conservative organisation.

Last November PwC released their annual Low Carbon Economy Index report (discussed by the authors in the video above) and it makes for very sobering reading. Especially given this report comes from PwC, not an organisation particularly known for its activism on climate matters.

Here at GreenMonk we have tended to dial back on the climate rhetoric in recent years because of the divisiveness of the reactions it tends to generate. However, we felt a responsibility to give this report an airing given the consequences of its conclusions.

What does the report say?

Its key findings are:

  • The average rate of decarbonisation globally has been 0.8% a year since 2000 (it was 0.7% in 2011)
  • The required rate of decarbonisation globally to meet a 2°C warming target is now 5.1% a year, every year from now to 2050, so
  • Businesses, governments and communities across the world need to plan for a warming world – not just 2°C, but 4°C, or even 6°C

In case you are unfamiliar with centigrade that translates to planning for a warming world of not just 3.6°F but 7.2°F or even 10.8°F.

These temperature rises are against the baseline of the global temperature in the year 1800. And against that baseline the planet has already warmed up by 0.8°C, only allowing us another 1.2°C before we hit 2°C of warming. 2°C is the amount of warming which politicians agreed should be the upper limit at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference.

So a quick recap – to limit warming to 2°C, we need to increase our global decarbonisation from its current 0.8% per annum, to 5.1% per annum every year for the next 39 years. This is an Herculean task, to put it mildly, and the longer we put it off, the more difficult it becomes. Had we started in 2000, we would have had to reduce emissions 3.7% per annum, for example. To put that in some sort of perspective, 3% is the amount of emissions which the global aviation industry is responsible for.

What does a 2°C rise in global temperatures mean?

Well, NASA’s chief Climatologist James Hansen put it well when he said:

The paleoclimate record makes it clear that a target to keep human made global warming less than 2°C, as proposed in some international discussions, is not sufficient — it is a prescription for disaster. Assessment of the dangerous level of CO2, and the dangerous level of warming, is made difficult by the inertia of the climate system. The inertia, especially of the ocean and ice sheets, allows us to introduce powerful climate forcings such as atmospheric CO2 with only moderate initial response. But that inertia is not our friend — it means that we are building in changes for future generations that will be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.

So, it is all doom and gloom?

Not necessarily. As we mentioned above, this is going to be a massive undertaking. Decarbonisation of all of our systems is now more urgent than ever. If there were ever a time to start investing in decarbonisation projects, this is it.

Disclosure – PwC is not a GreenMonk (or RedMonk) client and no financial relationship exists between Red/GreenMonk and PwC.

Power Assure automates the reduction of data center power consumption

Data centre

If you’ve been following this blog in the last couple of weeks you’ll have noticed that I have profiled a couple of data centre energy management companies – well, today it is the turn of Power Assure.

The last time I talked to Power Assure was two years ago and they were still very early stage. At that time I talked to co-founder and CTO, Clemens Pfeiffer, this time I spoke with Power Assure’s President and CEO, Brad Wurtz.

The spin that Power Assure put on their energy management software is that, not only do they offer their Dynamic Power Management solution which provides realtime monitoring and analytics of power consumption across multiple sites, but their Dynamic Power Optimization application automatically reduces power consumption.

How does it do that?

Well, according to Brad, clients put an appliance in each of the data centres they are interested in optimising (Power Assure’s target customer base are large organisations with multiple data centres – government, financial services, healthcare, insurance, telco’s, etc.). The appliance uses the management network to gather data – data may come from devices (servers, PDU’s, UPS’s, chillers, etc.) directly, or more frequently, it gathers data directly from multiple existing databases (i.e. a Tivoli db, a BMS, an existing power monitoring system, and/or inventory system) and performs Data Centre analytics on those data.

Data centre

The optimisation module links into existing system management software to measures and track energy demand on a per applications basis in realtime. It then calculates the amount of compute capacity required to meet the service level agreements of that application and adds a little bit of headroom. From the compute it knows the number of servers needed, so it communicates with the load balancer (or hypervisor, depending on the data centre’s infrastructure) and adjusts the size of the server pool to meet the required demand.

Servers removed from the pool can be either power capped or put in sleep mode. As demand increases the servers can be brought fully online and the load balancer re-balanced so the enlarged pool can meet the new level of demand. This is the opposite of the smart grid demand response concept – this is supply-side management – matching your energy consumption (supply to the demand for compute resources).

A partnership with Intel means that future versions will be able to turn off and on individual components or cores to more precisely control power usage.

The software is agentless and interestingly, given the customer profile Brad outlined (pharmas, financial institutions, governments, etc.), customers log in to view and manage their power consumption data because it is SaaS delivered.

The two case studies on their site make for interesting reading and show reductions in power consumption from 56% – 68% which are not to be sneezed at.

The one client referred to in the call is NASA and Power Assure are involved in a data centre consolidation program with them. Based on the work they have done with Power Assure, Brad informed me that NASA now expects to be able to consolidate their current 75 Data Centres significantly. That’ll make a fascinating case study!

You should follow me on Twitter here

Photo credit cbowns

Space based solar power?

I saw an announcement the other day on the National Space Society‘s website about a breakthrough in Space-based solar power.

Normally the stuff of science fiction, it turns out that John C. Mankins, former manager of NASA’s Exploration Systems Research and Technology Program, performed a milestone demonstration of the critical technology enabling Space Solar Power: long-distance, solar-powered wireless power transmission.

According to the release on the Space Power Association site:

During the week of May 5-9, 2008, a key step on the path to Space-Based Solar Power was achieved: a “first-of-a-kind” long-range demonstration of solar-powered wireless power transmission using a solid-state phased array transmitter located on the U.S. island of Maui (on Haleakala) and receivers located on the island of Hawai’i (Mauna Loa) and airborne. The demonstration, achieved by Managed Energy Technologies LLC of the U.S. and sponsored by Discovery Communications, Inc., involved the transmission of RF energy over a distance of up to 148 kilometers (about 90 miles): almost 100-times further than a major 1970s power transmission performed by NASA in the Mojave Desert in California. The 2008 project (which lasted only 5 months and cost less than $1M) proved that real progress toward Space Solar Power can be made quickly, affordably and internationally, including key participants from the U.S. and Japan.

A number of key technologies were integrated and tested together for the first time in this project, including solar power modules, solid-state FET amplifiers, and a novel “retrodirective” phase control system. In addition, the project developed the first ever “field-deployable” system-developing new information regarding the prospective economics of space solar power / wireless power transmission systems

There are a lot of announcements coming out at the moment about advancements in solar power but of them all, this one has to be one of the most intriguing!

Will it ever become a reality? Who knows, but with this proof-of concept a significant barrier has been removed!