Guido Bartels of GridWise and IBM discusses Smart Grids with GreenMonk

High Voltage power line

Photo credit Ian Muttoo

Guido Bartels is General Manager of IBM’s Global Energy and Utilities Industry. Guido leads IBM’s corporate initiative around building an ‘Intelligent Utility Network,’ IBM’s portfolio of offerings and capabilities for the Smart Grid.

Guido is also a member of the Electricity Advisory Committee at Department of Energy, an organization whose mission is to

provide advice to the U.S. Department of Energy in implementing the Energy Policy Act of 2005, executing the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and modernizing the nation’s electricity delivery infrastructure

And Guido holds the position of Chairman at GridWise Alliance, the US Smart Grid industry association.


I invited Guido onto the show to discuss the current state of Smart Grid roll-outs globally and I asked him, amongst others, the following questions:

Define what is a smart grid (there are a lot of definitions out there!)

Why do we need them? What are the benefits of smart grid?

What is your vision of what the ideal Smart Grid rollout would be?

and what would be necessary to achieve it.

What differences are there in global geographies?

Are regulationss affecting rollout?

Can you point to any good smart grid rollouts?

Download the entire interview here
(12.7mb mp3)


James Farrar on SAP and Sustainability


Photo credit photobunny


My guests on this podcast are James Farrar and James Governor. James Farrar is Vice President of Corporate Citizenship at SAP while James Governor is the co-founder of RedMonk.

SAP recently published their Sustainability Report and both James Governor and I were keen to chat to SAP to learn more about how SAP views Sustainability.

We invited James onto the show and despite/because of some ribbing and rigorous questions what resulted was, I think a great conversation.

Listen in and let me know what you think…

Download the entire interview here
(25.7mb mp3)


HP Labs Chris Preist discusses the Climate Futures report

London 2023

Photo credit Enigma Photos


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)


GreenMonk talks batteries and sustainability with Dr Christina Lampe-Onnerud, founder and CEO of Boston Power

I talked with Dr. Christina Lampe-Onnerud, founder and CEO of Boston Power the other day about their new lithium-ion batteries.

Boston Power are a startup battery business but Dr Lampe-Onnerud is no stranger to lithium ion technology, holding as she does, close to 20 patents for Li-ion technologies.

Boston Power have launched a new series of Li-ion batteries which sound really intriguing. They charge faster than traditional batteries, they hold their charge longer, and while typical Li-ion batteries start to wear after 150 power cycles, the Boston Power ones only start to wear after 1500! This means a far longer lifetime for the batteries, reducing the need to keep buying replacement batteries as charged times decrease.

We also discussed on the call the increasing requirement for batteries for plug-in hybrids and in the near to mid future, the new market for home batteries to take in power when electricity is cheap and potentially sell it back or come off grid when electricity is expensive.

However, from a purely selfish perspective, the thing I want to know most is when will there be a version of this battery available for my MacBook Pro!!!


GreenMonk talks Sustainability with IBM’s Stan Litow


Photo Credit ChicagoEye


My guest on this podcast is Stan Litow. Stan is IBM’s VP for Corporate Affairs and Corporate Citizenship.

IBM recently issued their 2008 Corporate Responsibility Report. It is an extremely interesting, very comprehensive overview of IBM’s work in this space. You can download the entire report here (PDF warning!).

Having gone through the report, I was interested to discuss it with Stan and he graciously agreed to come on the show and gave a fascinating look at some of the thinking behind IBM’s initiatives in this space.

Download the entire interview here
(20.3mb mp3)


GreenMonk talks to Siemen’s (SIS) Peter Arbitter

Peter Arbitter

Photo Credit Tom Raftery


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)


Doug Neal on reducing the 98%

it@cork are holding their annual conference this year on the theme “Green IT: Reduce CO2, Raise profits”

We here in GreenMonk are sponsoring the event and as part of the sponsorship we are interviewing many of the speakers in the run-up to the conference.

In this interview, I chatted with Doug Neal, research Fellow at The Leading Edge Forum about his presentation.

We talk about how although IT is only responsible for 2% of the world’s carbon emissions, it can act as a huge lever on reducing the other 98%.


GreenMonk interviews Stefan Engelhardt about SAP’s vision for Smart Grids

One of the more interesting keynote talks at the recent SAP for Utilities conference in San Antonio TX was the one given by Stefan Engelhardt, SAP’s Head of Industry Business Unit Utilities.

In his keynote he discussed decarbonisation and SAP’s vision around Smart Grids and Smart Meters. I asked him if he’d be willing to come on camera to talk about some of these topics and he very graciously agreed.

With the vast majority of the world’s utilities using SAP’s software, they have their fingers firmly on the pulse of this sector. What was pleasantly surprising to me was the amount of interest SAP is seeing from their utility client companies in Smart Grids. As Stefan himself said in the interview:

For the next couple of years we see a clear trend towards the deployment of Smart Metering technology in the Utilities industry… and that means we have to adapt the existing business processes to this new technology

It was also fascinating to hear Stefan’s predictions around how Smart Grids will be rolled out gradually by utilities. Polling of smart meters by utilities will be ramped up bit-by-bit from maybe once a day to once every 10-15 minutes and this will have huge implications for the amount of data utilities will have to manage. Previously they may have collected 1 terabyte every 10 years. With smart meters reporting energy usage every 10-15 minutes they could be collecting 1 terabyte every month, or less!

With the roll-out of Smart Grids, utility companies will be able to publish energy prices in realtime based on supply and demand. This is important because electricity is more plentiful when renewables are contributing to the mix, so cheaper electricity should also track closely with Greener electricity!.

Utilities will now be able to offer new products like critical peak pricing for peak shaving in times of electricity shortage and even demand stimulation, to encourage people to consume electricity when supply is exceeding demand. This will encourage people to shift some of their loads to times when renewables are contributing more, thereby reducing the CO2 emissions associated with that load.

[Disclosure – SAP covered my expenses to attend this conference]


GreenMonk talks to General Motors about the Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

Photo Credit gmeurope


Episode 8 of the GreenMonk Podcasts – 37 mins 32 secs

My guest on this podcast is Greg Cesiel. Greg is the Program Director for the Chevrolet Volt. The Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle from General Motors, expected to begin hitting showrooms in the US in 2010.

From the Wikipedia entry:

The company has avoided the use of the term “hybrid,” preferring to call it an electric vehicle with a “range extender” (“extended range electric vehicle” or EREV), due to its design.

The vehicle is designed to run purely on electricity from on-board batteries for up to 40 miles (64 km)… a large enough distance to cover the daily commutes of 75% of Americans, which averages around 33 miles (53 km). With the use of a small internal combustion engine driving a generator to power the electric motor, the vehicle’s range is potentially increased to 360 miles (579 km) on the highway (and which can be extended for very long trips by conventional refueling).

There was tremendous interest in this podcast. I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to be interviewing Greg and I received over a dozen questions in under 30 minutes!

Here are the questions I asked Greg and the approx. times I asked them:

Can you give us a bit of background on the Chevrolet Volt? It is what you guys are calling an extended range electric vehicle, is that correct? – 00:15
You guys targeted getting 40 miles from the battery because this takes in most people’s daily commute, is that correct? – 01:08
Of course, those kinds of calculations vary wildly with your local price of electricity and petrol… – 02:05
One of the great things about electric vehicles is that they become more Green as more renewables are added to the grid (and older non-renewables are retired)… – 02:50

Questions from readers:

rodney rumford
Ask them what the life expectancy of the battery is? How many years before total replacement? – 3:37

How does battery performance vary with ambient temperatures? – 04:26

rodney rumford
How is the software coming along for determining when the mini-engine needs to kick in before i make it to homebase? – 05:39

Do you have a release date for when people will be able to get their hands on a Volt? – 06:35

rodney rumford
Do they have an figures on how much carbon per mile is consumed? (think about how much carbon is emitted in order to recharge the batteries) – 6:59

How much is the car? 07:30
How will they communicate to customers that the range is actually totally matching their needs, overcoming the fear that they might not have enough range? Imagine they sell a lot of these cars, will the sudden overnight need for power be actually a positive thing for power stations, balancing their load? – 08:23

John Keyes
I wonder are they doing any research into cleaner batteries? 10:46

Existing battery technologies are quite nasty in terms their environmental impact on destruction but lithium ion appears to be more environmentally friendly… – 12:00

John Keyes
What’s the drag coefficient? – 12:40

Jonathan Kash
1. The Volt has tremendous long-term value for both GM and the industry, but from what I understand the margins will be very slim. Given the state of liquidity in the market, do you see the program being put on hold? – 13:35

2. The electric/range extender is a fantastic concept: however, what about people that live in urban areas? Have there been any thoughts on how residents of a large city (with very few personal garages) might be able to successfully use this platform? – 14:34

Bob Lutz mentioned last September that there would be a version of the Volt with solar panels on the roof, is that still on the cards, ‘cos they’d work well here in Seville!? – 16:04

James Britton
what other electric vehicles are planned? – 16:34
Ate you planning a plugin hybrid? Are you striving for 100 percent electric and/or hybrid electric engines? – 17:53

Joseph Simpson
When the Concept Volt was unveiled a couple of years ago, most commentators seemed to believe that when the pure electric 40mile range was exhausted, the petrol motor would kick in and charge the batteries, in order to go on delivering power. Now, with the launch of the (pre)production Volt, GM are saying that once the batteries are depleted, the petrol engine will kick in, but directly drive the electric motor – not charge the batteries.

Questions related to this:

1 – is this true? if so, did this change happen during the R&D phase (and why if so?), or did the press originally mis-read the concept. Has the system – as proposed in the current car, always been proposed to work this way? – 19:06
2 – how efficient is the car when running on just the petrol engine, (ie, once the batteries are exhausted)? Wouldn’t a current production car, with a small petrol engine directly driving a crank/drive shaft be more efficient, because it wouldn’t have the added weight of the batteries? – 22:09

Second point is, I’m really interested to know more about how the interface works – GM have said that the car will actively manage the batteries, and know how to be most efficient, by knowing when it’s close to home/a charging point etc. Can they explain a little more about this. It sounds clever, but fraught with issues and complexities. Will the car come with an on-board, and up-datable database of charging stations in its computer system? – 24:06

Is the software integrated with some kind of GPS system, and you tell it where you are going, or is it just guessing based on the erergy levels in the battery versus what is in the tank? – 25:38

Jim Hughes
This is a Euro-centric view, but are there plans for a diesel rather than petrol version? – 26:09

Also was a rotary (wankel) engine considered for the petrol engine? – 26:49

Phoebe Bright
Are then thinking hot-swappable all electric cars in the future, and if so what are the technology implications, and if not, why not? – 27:07

I saw a report on the GM-Volt site where Shai Agassi of Project Better Place said:

the Volt is a $20,000 car that will cost $40,000. It will be a niche product. we want to make electric cars a mass market thing, and the only way to do that is to make it cheaper than driving a regular car.

What would you say to that? – 28:03

What about the lithium battery supplies? This is an entire new marketplace you are creating, are you confident that you will have enough supplies to meet the amount of cars you are hoping to sell? 29:19

Phoebe Bright
What are the assumptions around oil price that are being used by Chevy for their business planning? – 29:57

Gina Porreco
Is there any plan for battery disposal? While electric vehicles are by far a better choice for the environment, they create the potential for a huge hazardous waste problem. – 30:39

John Peavoy
What other “green” or environmentally friendly materials and/or production processes are being used in the car and its production? Are GM investigating new materials & processes either as part of this program or other programs in the future? – 31:30

Joseph Simpson
I reckon that GM can probably get away with charging around £25,000 for the Volt in the UK. Why? Because a Prius costs around £20k, and I’d predict the Volt will appeal a lot to early adopters, people who ‘want’ an *electric* car, and people who look at the price of fuel, and can see the cost saving potential. But more than £25k puts you well into BMW/Merc territory – and am not sure people would be willing to pay more than that for a Chevy.

So – how do-able is this? Are GM confident they can price the car around this mark, sell enough of them, and make money? – 32:40

ask them to quantify the full environmental impact of actually manufacturing and recycling the car. For example, parts for the Toyota Prius are shipped and re-shipped from all over the planet and I, as a potential consumer, remain unconvinced that the Prius damages our environment less over its lifetime than a conventional car. – 34:09

Will there be software and a software interface there for selling electricity back to the grid in times of high demand so that, if your vehicle takes off, it can act as a buffer against variability of supply and demand from renewables. Is that something you are considering? – 35:28

Download the entire interview here
(34.4mb mp3)


GreenMonk Interview with Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Strategist

I talked to Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Strategist, Rob Bernard the other day. We discussed how large organisations can reduce their environmental footprint, using Microsoft’s own example; we discussed how Microsoft software is helping other companies reduce their carbon footprint and we discussed how Microsoft people and products are helping research into Climate Change.