Tour of Adobe’s triple Platinum LEED certified HQ

LEED (short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a building rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), that provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction.

In 2006 Adobe’s HQ in San Jose became the world’s first commercial enterprise to achieve a total of three Platinum certifications under the LEED program – a hugely impressive achievement.

I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the facility when I was there recently – some notable stats – in working towards LEED certification Adobe:
– reduced electricity use by 35%
– natural gas by 41%
– domestic water use by 22%
– irrigation water use by 76%

Also, Adobe is now recycling or composting up to 95% of solid waste.

One of the great things about the LEED certification is that it has an ongoing re-certification element (Adobe has chosen to be audited every 3 years) and there is a constant process of improvement.


Last Monday’s Energy and Sustainability show

Live TV : Ustream

I have been running a weekly GreenMonk Energy and Sustainability show over on Ustream every Monday at 4:30pm CET, (3:30pm GMT, right now with the hour change that is 11:30 ET and 08:30 PT).

I started slow and didn’t market it heavily as I wanted the show to grow its own legs and I wanted to become more comfortable with the medium. It has now started to develop a following and very positive feedback so I think the time has come to start talking it up more.

Above is last Monday’s show (March 16th 2009) and below is the live chat stream from people who were watching and interacting with me live during the show.

Feel free to drop by next Monday, or any Monday and join in. I plan on making the show more interactive possibly bringing people in using virtual world’s or similar technology. Also, next Monday, I have a surprise special guest in a short pre-recorded slot!

04:31 yellowpark : afternoon all
04:31 TomRaftery : Hi all – just starting
04:32 leewilkins : afternoon guys
04:32 mikeTheBee-1 : Hi all
04:33 mikeTheBee-1 : 11 viewers
04:33 dahowlett : afternoon sports fans
04:36 zSAPping : Hey
04:36 mikeTheBee-1 : Would worry a lot of people, about snoops and burglars
04:37 mikeTheBee-1 : Sell it to burlars 🙂
04:37 ustreamer-58948 : Targetted advertising and profiling.
04:38 mikeTheBee-1 : 14 viewers
04:38 yellowpark : miuke – if burglars want to get, i reckon it’ll be easier to get the data from twitter rather than analysing electricity data
04:39 yellowpark : indeed
04:40 dahowlett : I have a VERY big dog…but she’d lick you to death
04:40 leewilkins : I have a VERY small dog, and he’d fall over!
04:41 TomRaftery :
04:42 mikeTheBee-1 : I heard a lot of reports on steam media about that conference
04:43 TomRaftery :
04:45 mikeTheBee-1 : Reports of rocks that will do the same on CNN this AM
04:46 TomRaftery :
04:48 mikeTheBee-1 : 14 Viewers
04:48 TomRaftery :
04:48 dahowlett : I wish the ads wouldn’t keep popping up…
04:49 yellowpark : did you hear of the movie coming out this week about climate change btw
04:49 leewilkins : caught a Discovery Green Science piece recently about how John Deere are now commited to going green, and are now building their machinery with Corn and Peas!
04:49 mikeTheBee-1 :
04:49 yellowpark : yes
04:49 yellowpark : premiered. comes out thurs
04:50 leewilkins : coincidently the town is called Greensburg where their produced!
04:50 yellowpark : solar powered premier apparently
04:51 dahowlett : We now have our formal quote for biomass heating etc. < 2.5K euros net of grants. Gives us 100% renewable energy for as long as the olive trees continue to grow. 04:51 leewilkins : the plastics! 04:52 dahowlett : all-in 04:52 yellowpark : wow 04:52 zSAPping : via @ewh: @TomRaftery talking about new green city Masdar City; just read a good article in Technology Review Mag about it 04:53 dahowlett : Running cost in winter is estimated as no more than 30 euro/week so it's a win/win/win 04:53 dahowlett : all heating and water 04:54 TomRaftery : 04:55 TomRaftery : 04:55 zSAPping : That link was from Ed Herrmann who can't make it into the chat. 04:56 mikeTheBee-1 : Impressive if its 95% surprises me 04:56 dahowlett : nice to see @ewH is finagling around firewalls. 04:56 ustreamer-72352 : On computers sleeping: University of Michigan just unveiled a paper on giving servers naps 04:56 ustreamer-72352 : 04:57 yellowpark : pvr? 04:57 yellowpark : ah. ok 04:57 mikeTheBee-1 : Good news for the model. 04:57 dahowlett : Sky+???? WTF? 04:58 yellowpark : hardly any of these boxes are low power 04:58 mikeTheBee-1 : The LNB needs power at all times 04:58 yellowpark : i bought two new freeview boxes before xmas. Virtually none of them had low power details on the standby info 04:58 dahowlett : That's ridiculous 04:59 mikeTheBee-1 : LNB=satellite dish receiver 04:59 dahowlett : Cheap mfrs responding to distros?? 05:00 dahowlett : Spanish TV is grim 05:00 mikeTheBee-1 : Sky+ is HD and pvr 05:00 yellowpark : i think old mindset when electricity was cheap 05:00 yellowpark : no one bothered about how much electricity it used. now is different 05:01 dahowlett : Buenos tardes.... 05:01 mikeTheBee-1 : I'' be on if anyone want to join for a few mins after the show. 05:01 dahowlett : Good show Tom 05:02 leewilkins : good show 05:02 yellowpark : great 05:02 mikeTheBee-1 : Cheers all] 05:02 yellowpark : thanks tom 05:02 TomRaftery : Thanks everyone for making it a great show


Oracle’s Turning Information into Power report

Oracle Turning information into power report

Oracle released the results of a research report last week called “Turning Information into Power“.

The report had some interesting findings – from the press release:

Americans are concerned about energy costs and show interest in new energy options.

  1. 94% are concerned with the energy costs of their primary residence.
  2. 95% are interested in receiving detailed information on their energy use.
  3. 76% are interested in renewable energy technologies for their home – and 72% of those respondents state that “reducing personal energy costs” is the most important benefit of renewable energy.

Other interesting findings include:

  1. When asked to give their utility suppliers a grade on their “current ability to provide detailed, useful information on energy consumption,” only 14% of Americans gave their utility an “A.” When grading themselves on the same question, only 16% of utility managers gave their organizations an “A.”
  2. While more than half (58%) of electricity and multi-service utilities surveyed currently offer net metering programs – which allow homeowners to generate their own renewable energy or sell it back to their utilities – just 11% of these utilities say their customers are actively pursuing the programs.

This clearly demonstrates a communications issue between the utilities and their customer base.

While on Smart Grids –

  1. 91% of utility managers believe it is critical that the U.S. adopts smart grid technologies.
  2. 41% of utilities have assessed the opportunity for smart grid technologies and
  3. Utility managers believe “upfront consumer expenses” (42%) and a “lack of consistent industry technology standards” (30%) will be the biggest roadblocks to maximizing benefits of the smart grid

There is a lot of interesting information to digest in this report – mainly though it is good news. The American people want more information on their energy use, they are interested in renewables and microgeneration. The renewables, for their part, believe that rolling out smart grids is critical, provide net-metering programs but don’t, as yet, provide detailed useful information on energy consumption in their bills.

Both sides perceive the biggest obstacle to the rollout of smart grids is financial.

Let’s hope that the $11bn pledged to the implementation of smart grids by the Obama stimulus plan will break down some of these barriers.

I hope to be interviewing Guerry Waters, vice president, industry strategy, Oracle Utilities about this report in the coming weeks, if you have any questions you’d like me to put to Guerry, please feel free to leave them in the comments.


Cisco EnergyWise – turns networks into an Energy Efficiency platforms

As mentioned previously, buildings account for 38% of CO2 emissions in the United States, buildings consume 70% of the electricity load in the U.S and CO2 emissions from buildings are projected to grow faster than any other sector over the next 25 years.

Cisco has decided to tackle this problem, by turning its networking infrastructure kit into a platform for energy efficiency with its launch yesterday of Cisco EnergyWise!

Cisco EnergyWise is a technology for their Catalyst line of Switches which will be rolled out as a free software upgrade for existing switches and included in new Catalyst switches beginning in February 2009.

From the release:

Cisco EnergyWise will roll out in three phases to improve IT and building system energy utilization:

  • · In the first phase (February 2009), Network Control, Cisco EnergyWise will be supported on Catalyst switches and manage the energy consumption of IP devices such as phones, video surveillance cameras and wireless access points.
  • · In the next phase (Summer 2009), IT Control, there will be expanded industry support of EnergyWise on devices such as personal computers (PCs), laptops and printers.
  • · In the final phase (Early 2010), Building Control, Cisco EnergyWise will be extended to the management of building system assets such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), elevators, lights, employee badge access systems, fire alarm systems and security systems

EnergyWise will allow companies to create event-based policies for energy reduction (i.e. turn off all lights in data center or hotel room unless someone swipes in – and turn off when they swipe out). It will also allow for control of the energy utilisation of everything from wireless access points, right the way up to building’s aircon systems. Policies can be grouped by tags, so you can control entire buildings campuses or geographies.

Cisco also announced the acquisition of Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence Inc. to get access to the intelligent middleware to provide interoperability and integration between building infrastructure, IT applications and Cisco EnergyWise.

EnergyWise will also enable companies to report aggregated power consumption across an organisation, provide reports of current power conditions and suggests potential changes thereby reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Demand response programs will benefit hugely from systems like this being in place.

Superb to see RedMonk client company SolarWinds being signed up as the first network management partner for the program. SolarWinds told me they hope to have the integration with Cisco EnergyWise complete in 2009 and they told me that:

  • · EnergyWise policies and configurations will be managed by Orion Network Configuration Manager (NCM).
  • · Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) will show EnergyWise statistics and reports in its familiar web-based dashboard.
  • · We will also establish EnergyWise forums in thwack, to help support users as they roll out EnergyWise in their corporate environments.

Now, how long will it be before Juniper come out with a competitive offering, do you think? The more companies thinking this way and turning out products like this, the better for everyone.


Utilities are too top-down, command and control


Photo Credit Mikey aka DaSkinnyBlackMan

Utilities are top-down.

Whenever I talk to utilities about Smart Grids and Smart Meters they always trot out the same speech. They want to use Demand Response for peak shaving and they want to implement it by having a mechanism whereby they can come in to their customer’s houses at times of maximum demand and turn down the settings on the aircon, immersion heater, etc.

Unfortunately this kind of traditional top-down, command and control attitude is more likely to turn people off Demand Response programs than to sell it to them.

I know that as a consumer I want to be able to program my appliances myself so that I decide when they turn on/off in response to price signals from the grid. The same is true for fridges/freezers and water immersions – I want them to change thermostat settings to take in electricity at times when energy is cheap and not when it is expensive by MY definitions of cheap and expensive.

I want control of my appliances. I do not want the utility deciding to come in and adjust or turn them on/off for me because it suits them.

Demand Response programs will be hugely beneficial to the utilities and consumers alike but they are complex to explain. If you couple that with the utility having control of your appliances they suddenly become a far harder sell.

Give customers more control of their electricity bill. Allow them reduce costs without reducing usage, by owner controlled, programmatic, time-shifting of consumption and suddenly Demand Response programs becomes an easy sell.

And when you couple that with how Demand Response will stabilise the grid facilitating greater penetration of variable supplies (i.e. weather-based renewables like wind and solar) and you have a win, win, win!


Why don’t we already have a real time market for electricity?

Supply and Demand
Photo Credit whatnot

If Demand Response is such a good idea and will help get more renewables onto the grid, why isn’t it being embraced by the grid management companies?

Most grid management companies have been in business for decades managing a grid in which the supply is manageable and the demand is variable but reasonably predictable – typically daily demand is “this day last year +2.5%”!

Now grid management companies are faced with a situation where an increasing percentage of their supply is coming from variable sources (i.e. wind) – if the wind blows more than anticipated, too much electricity is generated and if it blows less than anticipated, the converse is true. This totally messes up their planning and consequently grid management companies hate wind, and think of it as unpredictable, negative demand!

Instead of having such a negative attitude to renewables and shutting them down in favour of fossil fuels they should be asking how can we facilitate the greater penetration of clean renewable energy sources onto the grid.

In the coming years, the demand for electricity will increase significantly as transportation goes more electric (electric and plug-in electric cars, bikes, trucks, etc.) and as heating moves more to electricity. This will add demand to the grid system but this increased demand is eminently movable – for the most part you don’t care if your car re-charges at 7pm or 4am as long as it is re-charged when you want to leave for work at 8am. Similarly with heating, if you use storage heaters (and they will become more common) you don’t care when they suck in the heat as long as they heat the house the following day.

If you can move the demand to a time when traditionally the requirement for electricity was low, you can deliver it over the same infrastructure, thereby selling significantly more electricity without having to massively upgrade the network.

The upshot of this is that an increasing movable demand (the ability to time shift consumption) should be a strong business case for a real-time electricity market. Let demand be guided by supply (as indicated by price). With a real time market for electricity you need never shut down wind farms in favour of fossil fuels, you sell more electricity and you enable a greater penetration of renewables onto the grid. Win, win, win.

Why hasn’t this happened already? Ask your local grid management company.


Introducing the NegaWatt!

Feather in the sky
Photo Credit Sarey*

Yes, you read the title correctly and no, NegaWatt is not one of my normal typos!

What then is a NegaWatt? A NegaWatt, is a MegaWatt of electricity that you don’t use! Huh?

Think of it like this, suppose a utility company has 100MW to supply.
Now let’s say their typical demand is 90MW.
If a potential customer contacts them looking for 20MW, they have a problem.

They can either try to build new generation of 20MW (expensive) or, try to get their existing customers to reduce their demand by 20MW. The reduced demand is typically done through efficiencies and the required reduction, when achieved, is 20 NegaWatts – 20 MW of virtually generated electricity.

Now, take the concept of a NegaWatt a little further. If you could ‘generate’ a lot of NegaWatts it should be possible to sell these demand side units back to the utilities. They are just as useful to the utilities for meeting demand as actual MegaWatts. More useful when demand for electricity is high and supply is low.

This is not some fictional futurescape. It is actually happening now to a limited extent in some parts of the US and will be rolled out far more widely in the coming years as energy markets and smart grids become more sophisticated.

How might someone create NegaWatts? Well, have a look at some of the posts we have written here about Energy Demand Management for some ideas.

A lot of the work in this area currently is looking at things like changing settings on thermostats (think aircon, refrigeration and water heating), bringing diesel generators online, and time-shifting of consumption (think storage heaters and pre-cooling buildings early in the day when demand is lower).

Companies like Comverge, EnerNoc and Echelon are making devices and systems that let consumer monitor and adjust their electricity use in real time.

This is a whole new market which is about to open up. There are massive opportunities there for people to write software to manage this, to build the hardware to do this, and to aggregate NegaWatts for sale to utility companies.

This all feeds back into the read/write grid we have discussed here previously. With the rise of the NegaWatt, electricity becomes a far more two-way tradeable commodity and the implications for the uptake of renewables on the grid are enormous.