Fairfax Water’s Tammy Powlas on producing good quality water cheaply

We talk to utilities a lot here on GreenMonk, but mostly electrical utilities. Recently I had an opportunity to talk to Tammy Powlas of water utility Fairfax Water to learn more about what they do.

It was a fascinating chat we had. Fairfax water makes extensive use of technology and also embue a culture in their employees of putting the customers’ needs first, and as a result, they produce safe, consistent, and cheap water for their constituency. This is vital work considering how important water is to our everyday lives.

Here is a transcript of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV. I am talking today to Tammy Powlas who is a senior business analyst with Fairfax Water. Tammy, water utilities, it’s an interesting field and one that we don’t talk about enough often. I think people take water for granted often, but it’s one of our more valuable resources. Can you give us a bit of background first on Fairfax Water? What kind of size are you, who do you deliver water to, and what kind of challenges you’re facing, that kind of thing.

Tammy Powlas: Okay, yes, Fairfax Water, we are the largest water utility in the State of Virginia. Currently, we serve 1.7 million people water, and one out of every five Virginians gets their water from us. We serve the Fairfax County and surrounding counties. One of our challenges or immediate challenges is we’re acquiring two new water utilities in our area. The other thing about Fairfax Water, we pride ourselves on being one of the lowest cost water utilities in the Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland area.

Tom Raftery: Great! So you give cheap water to people. Does that necessarily mean that’s good water?

Tammy Powlas: Oh, absolutely! We have a lab group who does testing. We have two sources of water. They are very active in testing that. Our customers can request at anytime, what’s the quality of the water. So we pride ourselves on giving the best lowest cost water in the D.C. area, and it’s always available.

Tom Raftery: And to coin the phrase, do you eat your own dog food, are you a –

Tammy Powlas: Yeah, I am a Fairfax Water customer. I live in Fairfax County. I have been a Fairfax Water customer since 1999. I’ve had good service from Fairfax Water as a customer. I do eat my own dog food, yeah.

Tom Raftery: So how do you manage to keep the prices down?

Tammy Powlas: Well, for us, I think it comes from the general manager on down. We are public sector water utility, I forgot to mention that. So revenue, we’re not tied to revenue, but we pride ourselves on always doing what’s the least cost or what’s the most cost efficient thing for our customers. So everything always has to have a business case. We do a cost benefit analysis, and it’s always questioned from the general manager, the finance manager, is this going to fit our customers, is this the best solution for our customers. So we pride ourselves on always thinking in those terms and the whole company does.

Tom Raftery: Okay. Is technology helping out at all?

Tammy Powlas: Oh, absolutely! We’ve been using the SAP utilities solution since 2004, and that has really helped us integrate all our solutions together from billing, from maintenance, and very importantly, financials. So that helps us manage the cost, manage our maintenance, manage our bills, everything is all together. We have integrated financial statements in SAP that even using a business object software, it’s all come together and really helped us be more efficient for our customer.

Tom Raftery: Okay. I mean water utilities, and utilities in general, have large issues around infrastructure management. How do you handle that?

Tammy Powlas: That’s handled also in SAP using the Plant Maintenance Solution. We’ve been lucky, because our infrastructure is relatively new compared to our surrounding utilities, surrounding jurisdictions like Washington, D.C. which to me has a lot of issues with the aging infrastructure. So for us, we’re very active in predicting what’s going to go wrong, planning our maintenance, so that’s part of our whole company.

Tom Raftery: Sure! I mean what are plans moving forward for tech roll outs and the interesting projects on the horizon, to help you better serve your customers?

Tammy Powlas: Oh, absolutely! For sure after data migrations, I would see it’s giving more visibility into how our customers are using the water, how am I consuming the water, how do I compare to my neighbors. So we’ve been relatively lucky. We haven’t had to tell our customers to boil the water, we haven’t had water shutoff, we don’t regulate the water and say you can only water on every other day. So we’ve been fairly lucky with that. But, I think given that people want to be more sustainable, I think they are going to want to see how am I managing my water and how am I consuming and how do I compare to my neighbors.

Tom Raftery: And smart meters?

Tammy Powlas: Smart meters, we have not looked at that yet. I think that is coming. What’s interesting is some of these jurisdictions that we’re getting, they have automated meter readings, and I think that will come. I think that’s got to be on the horizon. I am giving you my personal opinion, I don’t speak to Fairfax Water but I think that’s going to happen for sure, because I think the customer demand hasn’t happened yet, but I think that’s going to happen over time.

Tom Raftery: As people see the advantages of the smart meters for electricity.

Tammy Powlas: Yeah, absolutely! I can see that today with my own electric bill. I can log on and do all that and there’s a lot of benefits to that and there is a lot of incentives for the utility company as well.

Tom Raftery: Okay, cool! Tammy, that’s been great. Thanks once again for talking to us today.

Tammy Powlas: Absolutely! Thank you, thank you Tom!

How SAP achieved LEED Platinum certification for their headquarters in Pennsylvania

As I was in Pennsylvania to attend SAP’s Analyst’s Base Camp event earlier this year, I took the opportunity to get a tour of the new LEED Platinum certified Headquarters building. I was shown around the building by the facilities manager, Jim Dodd, who informed me of the different steps taken to enable the structure to achieve its an impressive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

I videoed the tour and see below for a transcription of it:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV, I am here in Newtown Square at SAP Headquarters. I am with –

Jim Dodd: Jim Dodd.

Tom Raftery: Jim, you are –

Jim Dodd: The Facilities Manager for the campus.

Tom Raftery: Okay, now we are standing on a — we are in the new building in Newtown Square.

Jim Dodd: The new LEED Platinum Headquarters’ building, right.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and can you tell me about the floor that we are standing on?

Jim Dodd: In comparison to the floor in the headquarters’ old building, where we used marble that was imported from Italy, what we wanted to do was to reduce that cost and do a sustainable floor. And so this floor is a concrete floor, and it has a mixture of seashells and glass in it on a terrazzo finish and then we polished it and honed it up, so it would be nice and shiny. But it’s considerably less expensive obviously than the marble floor in the main building and we use it in the atrium area in a radiant floor which we’ll talk about in a minute.

But it’s a less expensive solution and yet it’s a very attractive solution in terms of the flooring for both the link to the new building and the atrium that runs the full length of the floor downstairs on the promenade.

Tom Raftery: So, Jim, tell me about the floor.

Jim Dodd: Okay. In the promenade area, below us here, is a radiant floor, we have pipes that run through that floor and we have ten geothermal wells that are drilled in the back of our property. We take the water out of the ground where it comes as a constant temperature and we pump it through the piping on the concrete floor downstairs and the floor radiates heat or air-conditioning depending on what time of the year it is. And it helps to keep this big atrium very comfortable without having to use large amounts of air-conditioning or heating.

Tom Raftery: So it’s just using natural heat or cooling from the earth.

Jim Dodd: That’s correct, yes. So the water really comes out about 55 degrees out of the ground and we can pump that through the floor and that cools the concrete and radiates coolness in the summer time, and then in the winter time what we got to do is heat that water up to about 72 degrees and then we pump that through the floor and it heats the concrete and it radiates heat off the floor, and because it’s on the floor, it affects the employees immediately and it keeps the atrium very, very, very comfortable.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and you’ve got these nice banisters.

Jim Dodd: Yes, it’s an interesting situation here. When the original site survey was done for this building, it would have wiped out of a grove of the mature Chinese chestnut trees that are absolutely beautiful and are part of the aesthetics of the campus. So we moved the building in order to save half of those chestnut trees, but the chestnut trees that we did have to harvest in order to put the building here, we had them milled into handrails for the whole building.

About 90% of what’s in this building to construct it was sourced locally within 500 miles of the building and that’s a sustainability feature again, it provides points on the LEED scale because it cuts down on your carbon output because you are not exporting things from thousands and thousands of miles away.

Tom Raftery: So Jim, tell me about the under floor?

Jim Dodd: Yeah, the difference — the primary difference between the original building and the new building is in the original building the air distribution comes down from the ceiling plenum, and of course, that’s not very efficient because heat rises, so if you are trying to get heat down to where the people sit, it’s not in a very efficient approach. In this building, we use an under floor distribution where the air comes up through the floor and it’s controlled in each location with a vent, so people can control the amount of air coming in their space and by coming up from the floor, the treated air gets to the employee immediately and there is an immediate reaction to that temperature adjustment.

In the other building of course the hot air comes down but it turns around and goes right back up, so it’s not as efficient as this underfloor system is in this building here. We have a wood feature in each of our hallways that separate the neighborhoods and it’s made from bamboo. Again a sustainable wood that’s renewable every seven years in comparison to oak or walnut or some other wood that takes 40 or 50 years to mature. We decided to use bamboo in this building because it’s sustainable.

Tom Raftery: So, tell me about the carpets.

Jim Dodd: So the carpet, in most instances when you install large amounts of carpet, there is volatile organic chemicals in the carpet like formaldehyde that require you to aerate the building for a period of time before you can occupy it. We work with the manufacturer of this particular carpet to reduce or eliminate VOCs in it. So we did not have to ventilate the building for a period of time prior to occupancy.
And it makes for a cleaner environment for the employees overall without the organic chemicals off gassing from the carpet.

Tom Raftery: So what have we got beside us, Jim?

Jim Dodd: This is a filter water system that we put in. A number of years ago we used to provide bottled water for the employees and then we realized how much plastic waste was being generated, and even though it was being recycled. We decided to eliminate bottled water from the campus and we installed one of these Innowave water systems in each of our pantries. It’s filtered and it also cools the water and heats the water. So if you want to make tea, you can get hot water, and if you want cold water, you can get cold water.

But it reduced our cost by over $120,000 on bottled water, and got rid of the plastic issue.

Tom Raftery: So, Jim, where are we now?

Jim Dodd: We are in the chiller room of the new building of the Platinum LEED building and what we do that’s unique in this building in comparison to other buildings is we actually make ice at night and store it in these very big tanks behind me, and we use the system because at night the electricity is less expensive and the pressure on the grid is lower. So we don’t have to run the chiller during the day, because what we do is, we melt the ice during the day when we need air-conditioning and then we use that to cool the building and we don’t have to use our chiller during the day, when the grid is being stressed by everyone else, wanting air conditioning.

Tom Raftery: So Jim, tell me about this garden, where are we?

Jim Dodd: We are on the roof of the new building, believe it or not, and this is a green roof, this is a very unique approach to maintaining constant temperatures in the building. By having a green roof we keep the building cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
The other unique thing about this, as you can see we have to mow grass and we didn’t want to have to store gasoline up here, because it’s a hazardous flammable material. So we sought out a company that made a very good electric lawnmower and we mow the grass up here with electric lawnmower. In that way, we don’t have to store any gasoline up here, and it’s quite and it doesn’t just dirt people when they are working, it’s just a very unique approach to roof construction.

Tom Raftery: Jim, what have we behind this?

Jim Dodd: Behind this is the meadow as a part of our 102 acres of property here, and what we did this year, was working with the Triskeles Foundation and One Village, One Farm, these are non-profit organizations; we agree to put in an organic garden. We have enough room. So we put in a 100×50 organic garden with 22 raised beds and we’ll donate the food at the end of this year to all the local food banks.

We expect to produce hundreds of pounds of produce in this garden, and working with organic, no pesticides or anything like that, all natural ingredients to keep the bugs off, and then there is a 6 foot deer fence around it, because we have a lot of deer on the property and the garden would just get eaten to nothing. So we put a fence around it to protect it from the deer.

So we’re doing cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes and peppers, and then, we’ll have a fall planting as well, and all of that food will go to the local food banks.

We have 80 volunteers that have volunteered to take care of the garden. So we have plenty of people to take care of it, and it’s going to work out really, really well, and it’s another sustainable aspect of the property.

We also have two beehives on the property as well. We have a beekeeper that works for SAP and he had asked us if he could put beehives on the property. And we agreed to do that, because we felt that that was another sustainable issue in terms of pollinating and protecting the bees.

There has been a degeneration of bee colonies around the world and so having good bee colonies is very important to the propagation of all the different plant life that we have on the campus. So we decided to put the beehives here as well.

Tom Raftery: So what have we behind us, Sir Jim?

Jim Dodd: Okay, what you see behind us here is a 60,000 gallon cistern, buried in the ground, and we collect our rainwater in that cistern and then we use the rainwater for irrigation and flushing toilets, you know what, they call brown water or gray water, and with all the rain that we’ve had it’s full.

But it’s another way for us to get LEED points, but it’s also a better way to manage our water consumption on campus because we can use that rainwater to irrigate. We have a beautiful courtyard in between the two buildings and we irrigate that with that water. We also irrigate the green roof that you’ve seen with the cistern water. So it all goes into that 2 million gallons of savings of water per year.

Tom Raftery: So why are we standing beside this artwork, Jim?

Jim Dodd: This is part of our social sustainability program where we work with local non-profits to do certain things. In this particular case, we work with a non-profit called Fresh Artists. These are young children, these are not adults, these are children who have painted this artwork that you see behind you.

We make a donation, substantial donation to fresh artists, so they can buy supplies and easels and paints and brushes for their children, and then we in turn purchase their artwork to hang in this building.

So except on the executive floor, all other floors of this building have examples of this artwork from these young children and some of them are quite attractive and fun. But it’s a social sustainability thing as a part of our work with the community.

And the IT systems?

Jim Dodd: It’s a dashboard.

Tom Raftery: Right.

Jim Dodd: And it tells you the consumption of electricity in this building, the consumption of electricity in the other building, and it tells me what my PUE is in my data center, which is a –

Tom Raftery: I know PUE.

Jim Dodd: Okay, you know what that is. So it tells me how we’re operating, whether there’s some kind of anomaly, we’re using more electricity than usual. We can get just a quick glimpse of how the building is functioning, and what its consumption rates are in both buildings.

But then they go far beyond that and they can drill down to an individual air handler, right to the motor and determine if it’s running, how fast it’s going, how much power it’s using. We monitor over 10,000 points of information of data on all the systems in the building.

Full disclosure – SAP paid my travel and expenses to attend the SAP Analysts Base Camp

IBM tackling water issues globally

Home electricity consumption

Water, water everywhere…

Water is becoming scarce resource globally – even more-so in rapidly growing urban environments.In fact, according to the UN, water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population growth in the last century. – See more at: http://www.unwater.org/statistics_use.html#sthash.SVRxbpoE.dpuf Also, increased droughts, and flash floods are not helping matters.

To help alleviate this, it is great to see IBM stepping up to the challenge and helping with the issue in various communities:

  1. In London for example IBM announced that it will be working with Thames Water to improve operations and customer interaction. According to the announcement, the alliance will analyse big data and social media to boost “safety, reducing total expenditure and environmental impact alongside lowering energy and chemical costs”. This is important as Thames Water ramps up to meet the obligations of the next regulatory period (Asset Management Programme 6 – AMP6) from 2015-2020.
  2. IBM are also using big data and analytics to help the Arad Group process water consumption data of water meters. The Arad Group has water utility customers in 50 countries worldwide who could potentially benefit from this getting quick insights into water losses in its system. This solution also reduces by around the number of technician visits required by about 50%, freeing up those hours for more valuable work.
  3. IBM and Waterfund LLC, have signed up the Ministry of Water and Environment of Uganda to become the first African nation to become a member of the Water Cost Index (WCI). The Water Cost Index calculates the unsubsidised cost of freshwater production, to bring financial transparency to investors in water infrastructure. The hope is that this will help Uganda attract private sector funding and facilitate Uganda in the provision of clean and safe freshwater for its citizens.
  4. In South Bend, Indiana, federal requirements to change the way the sewer systems work meant that this small city (pop. 100,000) was going to be faced with a bill in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    To avoid this they instrumented their sewers, and wirelessly piped the information from these sewers to IBM’s Intelligent Operation Center (IOC). South Bend now has the most instrumented sewer system in the world, reducing the number of waste water overflows and keeping the local water system cleaner. The system saves South Bend $100m in water capacity and reduces the number of fines South Bend would have been subject to by $600,000
  5. IBM has worked with partners to manage Lake George, one of New York’s most pristine natural ecosystems. This project aims to create a sophisticated lake environmental monitoring and prediction system giving scientists and the community a real-time picture of the health of the lake. The hope being that the software and lessons learned can ultimately be used to help other lake systems worldwide.
  6. And, IBM worked with the Dutch Ministry of Water (Rijkswaterstaat) on a project called Digital Delta. Theis project aims to provide realtime information on water quality, the impact of extreme weather events, and the risk of floods or droughts. It will enable relevant agencies to share this information quickly so response efforts can be quickly coordinated.

Ready access to water has been an issue for mankind since the dawn of time. With our ever growing global population, water is going to become an ever more pressing concern. Companies like IBM who can help alleviate some of these issues will no doubt have a ready market for the foreseeable future.

Image credit Tom Raftery

IBM launch Intelligent Water for Smarter Cities

Water

Intelligent water is the latest addition to the IBM Smarter Cities portfolio.

in the world’s cities are growing at an astounding rate. For the 1st time in history, over 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. Over 1 million people are moving into cities every week, and it is estimated that by 2050 70% of people on the planet will live in cities.

This unprecedented growth in urban populations makes the provision of basic services like transport, security, water etc. increasingly complex. This is irrespective of whether the city is a mature city or a developing one. It was against this backdrop that IBM launched its Smarter Cities product.

At the core of this offering is its Intelligent Operation Center (IOC) which takes inputs from systems throughout the city and depending on the input, raises alerts, kicks off workflows, or displays the information on any of a number of dashboards which can be configured to display differing information based on a user’s login.

The newly announced Intelligent Water offering is yet another module capable of working with the IOC. In their briefing call, IBM were at pains to point out that their experience working with custom projects like the ones in Galway Bay, the Washington DC, and the Dubuque, Iowa all helped shape this new product.

Water issues are global in their reach, even if the difficulties differ from region to region (i.e. drought in Texas, flooding in Thailand, water quality in India).

IBM’s Intelligent Water helps organise water-related work. It drives proactive maintenance and schedules the maintenance so that the majority of the time is spent actually doing the maintenance, as opposed to driving between destinations. It allows water managers to see where the water is going – is it being delivered to customers, or disappearing through leaks in the pipework? Are customers using it effectively or not?

It integrates with geospatial packages and has map-based views, there are analytics for optimized scheduling, work order reporting, water usage reporting and display dashboards with roles-based information display. It is possible therefore to create views for the public (to display on the municipality’s website, for example), views for the Mayor’s office and others screens for the water planners and water operators.

According to IBM, Intelligent Water is available today. It comes with IBM’s business intelligence reporting tools as part of the solution and is available in standalone, cloud or hybrid versions.

I’m open to correction, but I’m not aware of any other company offering a comprehensive city management software solution like this. With cities growing at the rates they are, and most resources being finite, management solutions like this are going to be in greater and greater demand.

Photo credit Tom Raftery

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

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Photo credit Tom Raftery

IBM Pulse and Smarter Buildings/Smarter Cities

Mike Rhodin, IBM SVP, talking Smarter Cities at IBM Pulse

I attended IBM’s Pulse conference last week and the big surprise for me was the amount of attention being paid to Smarter Buildings and Smarter Cities. With 600+ sessions over six parallel tracks it is only to be expected that there be some Smarter Building content but at this event Smarter Buildings and Smarter Cities were mentioned in most of the keynotes. The Smarter Buildings market has obviously been identified by IBM as one to chase.

IBM also timed two related press releases to coincide with the event – in the first IBM talk about how they worked with McMaster University to improve the energy supply and use in its 60 campus-wide buildings and a university hospital. In the second announcement IBM released the names of several cities it is working with on Smarter Cities initiatives (Washington D.C., Wilmington, N.C. and Waterloo, Ontario).

Smarter Buildings are obviously a big play what with buildings being responsible for anything up to 40% of the world?s energy use, and approximately 33% of the world?s greenhouse gas emissions – and then there is the market size to consider – every building on the planet potentially.

Buildings are complex animals and they are not exactly dumb today – so how do we go about making them smarter? Most buildings have many disparate data sources (lights, heating, aircon, running equipment, doors, lifts, etc.). Where the likes of IBM can help is in pulling all this information together into a single window, and allowing building managers to view the information in context. IBM then layers its analytics on top of the information to show trends in energy use, highlight problems, as well as helping forecast and optimise energy consumption.

Similarly, but on an even bigger scale, IBM is helping cities manage their systems. Everything from traffic congestion and lighting optimisation, right the way through to water use optimisation and first responder call outs can be managed electronically right now. Again these systems have lots of disparate data – but it is in consolidating this data that IBM excels. Right now they are working with cities on individual projects around things like water use and traffic but look out for announcements soon from IBM on a product for the management of entire cities. That’ll be one to get really excited about!

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Photo credit Tom Raftery

Friday Green Numbers round-up for Feb 11th 2011

Green Numbers

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

  1. Vice President Biden Announces Six Year Plan to Build National High-Speed Rail Network

    Vice President Joe Biden today announced a comprehensive plan that will help the nation reach President Obama?s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, as outlined in his State of the Union address. The proposal will place high-speed rail on equal footing with other surface transportation programs and revitalize America?s domestic rail manufacturing industry by dedicating $53 billion over six years to continue construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.

    As a part of President Obama?s commitment to winning the future by rebuilding America?s roadways, railways and runways, the plan will lay a new foundation for the nation?s

  2. Energy and Carbon Software Market Poised for 300% Growth; Sector Leaders Named

    The market for enterprise energy and carbon accounting (EECA) software grew 400 percent during 2010 and is forecast to grow another 300 percent this year, according to research by efficiency system provider Groom Energy Solutions.

    The research found that more than 200 large corporations ? including Arch Coal, Bayer, RJ Reynolds, Safeway and Wyndham Hotels ? bought EECA software in 2010.

    The report names ten companies as EECA leaders for 2011. They are

  3. US diplomat convinced by Saudi expert that reserves of world’s biggest oil exporter have been overstated by nearly 40%

    The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.

    The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom’s crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels ? nearly 40%.

    The revelation comes as the oil price has soared in recent weeks to more than $100 a barrel on global demand and

  4. Bridgelux Raises $20M For LEDs

    LED chip and array maker Bridgelux raised close to $50 million just a year ago, but is raising even more money, according to a filing. The nine-year-old venture-backed startup which is looking to do for lighting what Silicon Valley has done for communications and entertainment ? make it digital ? has raised $20.74 million of a planned $21 million round.

    The company opened a factory in California and was making an effort to scale up its production last year, so

  5. British windfarms blow Vestas towards 25% profit rise

    Strong demand from British windfarms helped the world’s biggest turbine manufacturer, Vestas, raise profits by 25% over the past year and have boosted future prospects.

    UK equipment deliveries totalled 530MW ? a leap from 120MW over the previous year ? helped in particular by shipments for the 300MW Thanet windfarm, which is currently the largest offshore windfarm ever built.

    Shares in Vestas soared 5% as the Danish-based group reported

  6. Vodafone [Ireland] embarks on green drive to cut paper bills by 70%

    Ireland?s largest mobile operator Vodafone has asked customers to opt to switch to paperless billing as part of its drive to cut down on paper by 70%. The move, it says, will be equal to saving 5,000 trees and 500 tonnes of CO2.

    The company today launched its paperless billing campaign ?Goodbye Paper Bills, Hello Trees? and calls on Vodafone customers to make the switch to paperless billing.

  7. EMC? Cork plant cuts energy use by 20% after ?radical? retrofit

    EMC?, which employs 1,650 people at its Ovens site, undertook a full retrofit project to implement energy saving technologies at the information technology and data centre site, using free cooling technology systems.

    The ?2.5 million project, which was designed and managed by consulting engineering company Arup, will achieve annual electricity savings of 13 million kilowatt hours and an annual carbon emission reduction of 7,000 tonnes.

  8. Hopes of 30% cut in greenhouse emissions dashed

    The UK government’s plan to push Europe to deeper cuts on greenhouse gas emissions has been dashed by the EU’s energy chief.

    G?nther Oettinger, the EU’s energy commissioner, dealt a heavy blow to the hopes of several member states that have been pressing for a target of slashing emissions by 30% by 2020, against the current 20%.

    He said the tougher target would force industries to ….

  9. China bids to ease drought with $1bn emergency water aid

    China has announced a billion dollars in emergency water aid to ease its most severe drought in 60 years, as the United Nations warned of a threat to the harvest of the world’s biggest wheat producer.

    Beijing has also promised to use its grain reserves to reduce the pressure on global food prices, which have surged in the past year to record highs due to the floods in Australia and a protracted dry spell in Russia.

    The desperate measures were evident at

  10. Obama Admin: 1M Electric Vehicles by 2015 Still On Course

    President Obama?s plan to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 was reaffirmed on Tuesday.

    A new report issued by the Department of Energy outlines a strategy for achieving that goal, which Obama announced in his State of the Union address last month. David Sandalow, the Energy Department?s Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, said the goal can be reached if the proper steps are taken.

    ?To succeed in meeting the President?s goal, we?ll need …

  11. Ocean energy could create 70,000 jobs [in Ireland] ? Bord G?is

    Bord G?is have claimed that the ocean energy industry could create up to 70,000 jobs and be worth ?120bn to the Irish economy.

    In a speech to the Ocean Energy Industry Forum 2011 today, Bord G?is CEO John Mullins outlined his concern that ?not enough investment and planning is being put into developing Ireland?s ocean energy resources,? however.

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Green bits and bytes for Jan 27th 2011

Green bits & bytes

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

  1. This year’s annual Transmission & Distribution Europe and Smart Grids Europe conference will be held in Copenhagen from 12-14 April. More than 30 utilities, as well as utility experts, regulators and technology giants from all over Europe, as well as the USA, South Africa, Japan and Australia, will be attending. I hope to be there too!
  2. Synapse Energy Economics released a report this week which outlines in detail the enormous hidden health and water impacts of coal and nuclear power in the US.

    Some of the costs mentioned in the report include 200 billion gallons of water withdrawn from America?s water supply each day ? annual costs to society from premature deaths due to power plant pollution so high that they are up to four times the price of all electricity produced in the U.S. ? and four metric tons of high-level radioactive wastes for every terawatt of electricity produced by nuclear reactors, even though there is no long-term storage solution in place.

  3. Optimum Energy, maker of heating, ventilating and air conditioning software solutions, has rolled out a new partner program with enhanced project development tools and training resources. Optimum Energy’s software maximizes the energy reduction potential of high-efficiency, variable speed heating and cooling systems, leading to energy savings for customers and the ability to improve overall project return on investment.
  4. Tropos Networks, maker of wireless IP networks for Smart Grids, has added two new products to its portfolio – the Tropos 1310 Distribution Automation (DA) Mesh Router and their Directional Radio Systems to deliver economical long range, high capacity wireless communications for sparse suburban and rural areas or as backhaul for Tropos Mesh networks.
  5. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg launched an Urban Technology Innovation Center at Columbia university. The center brings together academia, the public sector and companies like IBM to design and deploy new technology that will help the city’s buildings save energy, water and other resources. The challenge is to use advanced IT systems – analytics software and powerful new hardware – to create facilities that reduce energy, streamline operations and optimise real estate use.

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Friday Green Numbers round-up 11/19/2010

Green Numbers

And here are this week’s Green numbers…

  1. Smart grids could save the EU ?52 billion annually, according to leading smart grid companies that have teamed up to promote European leadership in smart grids.

    The sizeable savings would arise from reducing losses in the electricity distribution network through automation and encouraging consumers to cut energy consumption with smart meters that provide more accurate and timely information, experts from the Smart Energy Demand Coalition said at its launch yesterday (15 November) in Brussels

    Utilities will also be able to lower the system voltage level and make meter-reading redundant, argued Chris King, chief regulatory officer at eMeter. After deducting necessary costs like the installation of smart meters and new software, the net benefit would still be ?31 billion per year, he said.

  2. Exelon Corp. plans to invest $3 billion to boost the output of its nuclear plants as environmental regulations make competing coal-fired generation more expensive.

    The investment is part of a plan announced Tuesday to spend $5 billion between 2010 and 2015 to increase generation capacity and reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

    The company already has the lowest carbon footprint of any major power producer because 93% its power is generated by its huge fleet of nuclear reactors, which emit almost no carbon dioxide. As Exelon increases its output of nuclear power, the company will close a pair of money-losing coal plants in Pennsylvania.

  3. To reduce emissions of greenhouse gases 10 percent below 1990 levels, Oregon?s PGE (Portland General Electric) plans to replace coal plants with 2,362 MW of wind energy and 557 MW of simple-cycle combustion turbines burning natural gas

    To pay for the new investment in building renewable energy, utility rates will likely rise 13% in 2019, and 25% in 2020, the utility calculates.
    But the other utilities in the state that utilize the regions plentiful hydro can make a gentler transition, as they currently have surplus generation from clean sources in the spring and winter.

  4. The Carbon Disclosure Project launches first water disclosure report on world?s largest companies

    The report findings show that water is already impacting business operations with 96% of responding companies able to identify whether or not they are exposed to water risk and more than half of those reporting risks classifying them as current or near-term (1-5 years). 39% of companies are already experiencing detrimental impacts relating to water including disruption to operations from drought or flooding, declining water quality necessitating costly on-site pre-treatment, and increases in water prices, as well as fines and litigation relating to pollution incidents.

    Water security is already high on the corporate agenda with 67% reporting responsibility for water-related issues at the board or executive committee level. The majority of companies (89%) have already developed specific water policies, strategies and plans, and 60% have set water-related performance targets.

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Friday Green Numbers round-up 06/25/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

And here is this week’s Green numbers:

  • Australia is no stranger to tight water supplies, and fortunately that means smart water conservation strategies are being devised all the time. Australia is leading the way in everything from strategies to combat desertification to using renewable energy for desalination plants, and now it is putting that knowledge to work on six new infrastructure projects that can save 1.3 billion gallons of water.

    tags: greennumbers, australia, smart water, water conservation, desalination, renewable energy, desertification

  • GROWING numbers of girls are reaching puberty before the age of 10, raising fears of increased sexual activity among a new generation of children.

    Scientists believe the phenomenon could be linked to obesity or exposure to chemicals in the food chain, and is putting girls at greater long-term risk of breast cancer.

    A study has revealed that breast development in a sample of 1,000 girls started at an average age of 9 years and 10 months ? an entire year earlier than when a similar cohort was examined in 1991.

    tags: greennumbers, girls, puberty, obesity, chemicals, food chain, breast cancer

  • There’s some interesting new data out on recent shifts in electricity demand and consumption, courtesy of the DOE/EIA.

    In 2008, total U.S. power generation was 4.1 million GWh. In 2009, that fell by 4 percent, to 3.9 million. That’s a 4 percent reduction — clearly the result of the economic slowdown. Nothing surprising there.

    What’s interesting, though, is how generation shifted by fuel type. Over the same year, coal-fired power generation fell by 11 percent, from almost 2 million GWh to just under 1.8 million.

    tags: greennumbers, fuel, type, coal-fired power generation, coal, DOE, EIA, U.S. power generation, electricity demand, electricity consumption

  • Just how important is turning off computers at the end of the day in an office building? Very, if a company wants to save big bucks on electricity bills. According to UC San Diego researchers, 50-80% of a modern building’s electricity use goes to IT equipment, particularly desktop computers. A report last year showed that not shutting down PCs equated to $2.8 billion in wasted electricity. Still, many offices don’t encourage their employees to hit shut-down on their PCs for a variety of reasons, including updating software while everyone is out or being able to keep the computer attached to the network so information on the machine can be accessed at any time. However, Microsoft’s new Sleep Proxy system claims it can help cut energy consumption by 60-80%, without getting in the way of office systems.

    tags: greennumbers, IT equipment, electricity use, Sleep Proxy

  • At a presentation at the Oxford Energy Futures conference on June 11th, Andy Duff, non-executive chair of RWE npower, made some controversial assertions about the future of electricity in the UK. He focused on three propositions.

    a)????? The UK cannot meet its carbon targets without new nuclear

    b)????? Electricity demand will grow at 1% less than GDP growth

    c)?????? The UK will not have enough electricity capacity by the latter part of this decade unless UK society accepts a doubling of wholesale electricity prices, which is the minimum required to free the capital investment required to 1) meet demand and 2) decarbonise sufficiently fast.

    In summary, we need nuclear and we all need to accept a substantial rise in electricity prices to pay for it.

    tags: Oxford Energy Futures, greennumbers, npower, nuclear, electricity demand

  • Chinese consumers are becoming as cynical as those in the West about the way companies communicate about their social and environmental performance, according to the latest wave of GlobeScan’s annual global tracking research on public views of corporate social responsibility.\n\nThe study, which interviewed over 30,000 people across 34 countries, finds that while in 2005 more than 80 per cent of Chinese consumers felt that companies communicated ‘honestly and truthfully’ about their social and environmental performance, this has now fallen sharply, with only 40 per cent feeling this way in this year’s study.

    tags: CSR Communications, csr, china, consumers, GlobeScan, greennumbers

  • Today, the chief executives of the five big oil companies ? including BP?s Tony Hayward ? are going to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. According to an e-mail released by that Committee yesterday, a BP drilling engineer warned that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was a ?nightmare well? that had caused the company problems in the past. The e-mail came just six days before the well exploded:

    tags: bp, oilspill, deepwater horizon, Macondo well, Gulf of Mexico, nightmare well, greennumbers

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