Green Button and Tendril – developers as kingmakers in the energy space now as well?

Green button

One of the greatest success stories in the energy sector in the last year is the speed with which America’s Green Button initiative has been adopted.

The project started in September 2011 with a challenge laid down by then US CTO Aneesh Chopra:

today at GridWeek, I challenged the smart grid ecosystem to deliver on the vision of Green Button and provide customers access to their energy usage information electronically. With this information at their fingertips, consumers would be enabled to make more informed decisions about their energy use and, when coupled with opportunities to take action, empowered to actively manage their energy use

His challenge was taken up by the industry with almost unseemly haste.

Green Button data standards were quickly drawn up in conjunction with America’s NIST – this is vital to ensure that Green Button data is cross comparable across utilities – and more importantly, that energy management applications written for Green Button data works across all utilities. This immediately creates a significant userbase for Green Button energy apps.

Then California?s three largest utilities ? Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison worked to create a ?Green Button? that allows customers to download their detailed energy usage with one click. Others utilities quickly followed suit and now at time of writing, 25 utility providers are supporting Green Button, including some of the nation’s biggest, like American Electric Power, CentrePoint Energy, and PacifiCorp. This brings the number of households and businesses capable of downloading their energy use information via Green Button in the US to 30 million [PDF] as of May 2012.

Technology companies also joined the efforts, and the list of those involved is long, including most of the usual suspects (Honeywell, Itron, Oracle, Schneider-Electric, Siemens, SilverSpring Networks, and Tendril) with the surprising exceptions of SAP and Logica.

Tendril are a supplier to utilities and they have now made it possible for any of their utility customers to export Green Button formatted files. Nothing too surprising about that, I hear you say. True enough, but where it starts to get really interesting is that Tendril have created GreenButtonConnect.com, a Green Button ecosystem. On this site, consumers can upload their Green Button information to any one of a number of apps hosted there to analyse their energy consumption. Even better though, any developer can use the Tendril Connect platform to develop energy apps, get access to the energy internet and have Tendril help co-market the app!

Tendril have been one of the first to realise that the old RedMonk saw Developers are the new Kingmakers applies just as much to the energy space, as it does to enterprise IT.

To this end, Tendril have also been sponsoring Hackathons themed around energy, like the recent Cleanweb Hackathon in Boulder, Colorado and January’s Cleanweb Hackathon in New York.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Tendril’s VP of Policy, Cameron Brooks, yesterday he opined that while the Green Button files are as yet, not nearly real-time, they will go more and more that direction before long. This will go a long way to facilitating the kinds of value add energy services I posted about recently here.

Photo Credit http://www.samcatchesides.com/

Cloud Computing’s Green Potential – my talk at the Green Economy conference

The good people in Business and Leadership invited me to speak at their Green Economy 2011 conference on the topic of “Cloud Computing’s Green Credentials”

The event was in Dublin and was attended by around 200 people from all walks of business. Fellow speakers were Yvo de Boer from KPMG, Dick Budden from the Carbon Disclosure Project and Dr. Willfried Wienholt from Siemens who talked about Sustainable Cities.

In my own talk, I said that intuitively, you might expect Cloud Computing to be more energy efficient, and in fact some Cloud Computing providers are making claims that Cloud Computing is “potentially” Green and energy efficient. However, seeing as Cloud Computing providers are not publishing any data around Cloud Computing’s energy consumption, then it is impossible to say just how energy efficient Cloud Computing is.

An exercise I tried out was – I asked everyone in the room to put up their hands if their company had deployed apps to the cloud – a good few hands went up. Then I said, keep your hands up if you know what the energy utilisation of those apps was before they went up – you can see where I’m going with this. Unfortunately, no hands stayed up at this point. The final instruction I was going to put to them was to keep your hands up if you know the energy utilisation of your app now that it is deployed in the Cloud. If you don’t have that information (and no-one does because Cloud Providers are not supplying it) then you can’t say that Cloud Computing is energy efficient.

Sure, you can say that you deployed your CRM to the cloud for example, and you decommissioned the servers which were handling your CRM internally – so you are saving energy there. But those energy savings are simply outsourced to your Cloud CRM provider and you have no idea how much energy they are burning to provide you with your CRM solution.

As for whether or not Cloud Computing is Green, or not – this is a different question entirely. I gave the examples of FaceBook and Microsoft, for example. FaceBook have a massively energy efficient data center in Prineville Oregan. It’s PUE is 1.07 which is near the theoretical maximum (of 1.0) but it is powered by Pacific Corp 63% of whose electricity is generated by burning coal – very definitely not Green. Similarly for Microsoft’s Dublin data center – again a very respectably PUE of 1.2, but it is powered off the Irish electricity grid, 87.5% of which comes from fossil fuels – again, not Green.

On the other hand, Google have gone to extraordinary lengths, investing over $400m in renewable energy and signing 20 year power purchase agreements with renewable energy providers – so you have to suspect that their Cloud Computing platform is Green, as well as energy efficient (but again, until they start producing data to back such claims up, it remains a suspicion!).

I concluded on Flip Kromer‘s great quote:

EC2 means anyone with a $10 bill can rent a 10-machine cluster with 1TB of distributed storage for 8 hours

This is a superb example of Jevons Paradox whereby Cloud Computing leads to increased computer resource utilisation, not reduced – which is also, not very Green!

The organisers put some of my talk up on YouTube – this may help get some context around the slides above –


Green bits and bytes for April 28th 2011

Green bits & bytes

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I haven’t done a Green bits and bytes posting in a while so here are some of the Green announcements which passed by my desk this last few weeks:

  1. Siemens has started a Smart Grid Innovation Contest, basically you submit new ideas that could be implemented in the near future, add supporting material (images, business plan, etc.), tag it and submit. You can submit more than one idea and all ideas can be viewed, commented on and rated. And there are lots of prizes to be won too.
  2. Switch Lighting have announced a new LED technology “that produces the brightest warm light LED replacement bulb available. The switch bulbs are dimmable and were designed with Cradle-to-Cradle principles in mind, according to Switch. ?The unique design of Switch bulbs signals the company?s intention to offer brilliant lighting as a service for humanity,? says William McDonough, who developed the Cradle to Cradle protocol with German chemist Michael Braungart. What’d be great is if they had a way to buy the bulbs on the site!
  3. Sandbag issued a report [PDF] outlining how the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is building up a mountain of surplus pollution permits, instead of reducing the growth of emissions. These banked permits will allow pollution to grow unchecked for years.

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Photo credit .faramarz

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

There’s gold in them thar bills!

Graph of power consumption

Photo credit Urban Jacksonville

The output from smart meters is incredibly granular. Far more so than is obvious from the smart meter output graph above.

In conversations with Dr Monica Sturm (Director of Siemen’s Center of Competence, Metering Services) last November (2008) she confirmed to me that it is possible to identify individual devices in someone’s home down to make, model and year of manufacture by looking at their energy profile – the output of their smart meter.

This kind of information is absolute gold and don’t think the utility companies aren’t starting to wake up to the fact. They are, and they are not alone. Why else do you think Google have jumped into this space with their PowerMeter offering. Not to be outdone, Microsoft have also stepped in with their Hohm product.

It won’t be long before Apple joins the fray with a sleekier, sexier iHome application!

For the utilities themselves, there are data protection issues to be worked through but once they are (and they will be), the utilities will use this data to help make up for the earnings lost as customers become more energy efficient (consuming less expensive energy).

One revenue model you will start to see emerge is utility companies selling appliances (and possibly even cars!). How will it work?

Because the utility company will have full visibility of our energy consumption, they will see when your devices are inefficient/faulty. I can very easily envisage receiving a communication from my utility company in the not-too-distant future along the lines of:

Dear Mr Raftery (actually, as I am based in Spain it would be more likely to be Estimado Sr. Raftery but let’s stick with the English version),

We notice from your energy profile that you own a 2004 Indesit BAN12NFS fridge freezer. Our records show that in the last 3 months the compressor in that freezer has become much less efficient and it is now costing you €25 a month just to run that one appliance.

We have partnerships with service companies who could try to repair the compressor in that fridge freezer for you, or alternatively, we have a special offer this month on new energy efficient fridge freezers.

We can have a brand new fridge freezer installed in your home before the end of the week. We can take away your old one for responsible disposition. And all this will won’t cost you a penny, in fact it will save you €10* per month off your current bill!

So, to summerize, if you call our hotline now on 555-123 4567 you can save €10 off your monthly bill, have a brand new fridge-freezer installed free and reduce your CO2 emissions by 12kg a year.

What are you waiting for?

*We charge you €15 per month for the new fridge thus saving you €10 per month off your current bill. Terms and conditions apply.

That’s just one possible scenario of how the utility companies will make use of smart meter data to generate alternative revenue streams for themselves – can you think of others?

The importance of open standards for broad smart grid adoption

Standards

Photo credit Leo Reynolds

If you are not sure why open standards are important, you need to read this quote from the opening address of the The Southern African Telecommunications Networks and Applications Conference 2005, by then Minister of Science and Technology, Mosibudi Mangena:

The tsunami that devastated South Eastern Asian countries and the north-eastern parts of Africa, is perhaps the most graphic, albeit unfortunate, demonstration of the need for global collaboration, and open ICT standards. The incalculable loss of life and damage to property was exacerbated by the fact that responding agencies and non-governmental groups were unable to share information vital to the rescue effort. Each was using different data and document formats. Relief was slowed, and coordination complicated.

If the Internet weren’t built on open standards we might have found ourselves in a situation where you’d need an IBM browser to look at the IBM website, an HP browser to look at the HP site, a Microsoft browser to view the Microsoft site and so on. In fact it is the very openness of the standards on the internet which has led to its explosive growth and ubiquity.

Proprietary standards lead to vendor lock-in and to the crazy situation where if, for instance you buy a Sony digital camera, it typically uses Memory Stick cards that can be acquired only from Sony and a few select licensees, and this memory is typically much more expensive than alternative memory types available from multiple sources but which won’t work in Sony cameras.

In the Smart Grid space, standards are also extremely important. We need ensure that there is no vendor lock-in (i.e. if a utility has GE transformers, they need to be free to buy their smart meters from any smart meter vendor, not just GE, for example).

One of the most successful of the open standards has been TCP/IP, the protocol used for communicating data across a packet-switched network, like the Internet or almost all home or company networks. The next incarnation of TCP/IP is called IPv6. The advantage IPv6 has is that it allows far more items to be networked than is currently possible and that will be vital if we are to start networking the appliances in our house so they can participate in the Smart Grid. This is why companies like Cisco, who have no history in the energy space, are going to have a part to play in the roll-out of Smart Grids. Indeed Cisco have been talking up the importance of IPv6 for Smart Grids and creating ecosystems “to facilitate the adoption of Internet Protocol (IP)-based communications standards for smart grids.”

This explains why standards and interoperability are becoming really hot topics in the Smart Grid space at the minute. In fact that’s what the majority of the company announcements from last week’s Gridweek conference were about:

By far the most important announcement around Smart Grid standards though wasn’t from a company, it was from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). They presented for public comment a major new report on Smart Grid interoperability standards. That this document was launched by US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke should be an indication, not just of the importance of standards for Smart Grids but fortunately, just how important the Obama administration perceives them to be as well!

Cisco famously said that the Smart Grid space:

will be 100 or 1,000 times larger than the Internet. If you think about it, some homes have Internet access, but some don’t. Everyone has electricity access–all of those homes could potentially be connected

The only way Smart Grids will achieve that scale is if the standards required for that growth are drawn up and adopted.

GreenMonk talks to Siemen’s (SIS) Peter Arbitter

Peter Arbitter

Photo Credit Tom Raftery

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 Peter Arbitter. Peter is Siemens SIS Senior Vice President, Portfolio and Technology Management. I caught up with Peter at the Siemens Technology Day in Salzburg. The theme of this year’s Technology day was IT for Sustainability.

We had a wide-ranging discussion around Siemens energy and sustainability initiatives both internally and externally for their customers.

Download the entire interview here
(34.4mb mp3)

GreenMonk talks Eco Labels with Fujitsu Siemens’ Bernd Kosch

Fujitsu Siemens announced last week new Eco Labels they are launching for their goods.

Eco labels are something I have written about previously on GreenMonk and I believe they are vital to helping consumers make informed choices when buying electronics.

I was interested in learning more so I invited their head of Green IT, Dr. Bernd Kosch to come on the show to discuss. He graciously accepted.

Monitors on the TransEurasia Express!

Fujitsu Siemens Computers announced recently that it was shipping 10,000 monitors and bare bones system chassis from China to Germany by train!

I thought this was simply a pr stunt to get some headlines until I read that transporting the goods by train is one-third faster than ocean freight, costs only one-quarter as much as air freight and yet produces less than 5% of the CO2 emissions of air freight!

Intrigued I invited Fujitsu Siemens senior director of global logistics, Hans Erbe to come on GreenMonk TV to discuss the shipment and to give us some hard numbers around money and CO2 saved!

You can foillow the progress of the shipment on the train’s blog at http://www.transeurasiablog.com/

I should also apologise for the quality of the audio in the podcast. We were connected via Skype and despite connecting several times, this was the best audio we could get :-(

The television image in the video is from videocrab