The ICT industry presently accounts for 2 percent of the world’s carbon emissions – the same amount that the aviation industry produces. And this 830 million tons discharged by internet and cloud services is projected to double by 2020.
But there is emerging consensus that this same industry actually represents the greatest hope for alleviating our planet’s most critical environmental threats. Driving this message is the Cleanweb Initiative: a rapidly emerging collective of developers, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and corporations who believe that “the revolutionary growth in mobile, social, sensors, processing power and big data analytics represents the greatest impact and economic opportunity of our time.”
As TriplePundit learned at the Clean Tech Future Conference II in San Francisco, the CleanWeb Initiative is busy preaching this message and building its network across cities from New York and Washington, DC to Rome and Copenhagen. “Anytime in history when energy technology has intersected with information technology, society has been changed fundamentally,” explains Nicholas Eisenberger, Co-founder of CleanWeb Initiative and Managing Partner, Pure Energy Partners. Take the Coal Age, which enabled us to create cheap steam, build railroads and conquer frontiers. Or the Oil Age, which powered the internal combustion engine and brought automobiles to garages across the world. While these technologies have been essential to the development of the human race, they have not come without their costs to the Earth, as we well know.
Eisenburger argues that humanity has now entered its next culture-shifting epoch. Only this time, development will no longer come at the expense of the world’s resources, but as an enabler of the solutions to earth’s resource constraints.
Welcome to the Silicon Age. Not only does silicon enable today’s information technologies by powering the micro-processor and the web, it also drives solar energy. So what happens in the Silicon Age when information technologies intersect with energy technologies?
IT displaces the need for energy. Take the impact created by virtual presence technologies via platforms like Google Hangout and Skype: One study demonstrated by the Cleanweb Initiative demonstrates that teleconferencing in the UK resulted in a 30 percent reduction in business travel and 3.3 million barrels of oil saved.
Or consider the sharing economy, which represents seemingly limitless potential for scalability: As Eisenberger mentions, Airbnb usage in San Francisco resulted in 66 percent savings in energy use versus the standard hotel room. When applied toward transportation, one Zipcar displaces the footprint of 15 owned cars.
Alternatively, perhaps the best illustrations of the Silicon Age can be found where IT enables, or accelerates the adoption of renewable energy technologies. As we’ve learned on TriplePundit, Solar Mosaic’s online platform invites individuals to participate in the solar revolution by investing in crowdfunded solar projects. Another great example, Sungevity, leverages satellite technology to instantaneously evaluate the potential for energy and cost savings of solar rooftop installations. This makes it much easier for homes to go solar by allowing for speedy convenience of an assessment which traditionally cost as much as $3,000.
Each day, conscientious and opportunistic entrepreneurs and developers are dreaming up capital light innovations like those mentioned above which can be brought to market and scaled at lightening speed to build the future of the Cleanweb. As Eisenburgh and Burris believe, many of these ideas will be brought to life by the next billion dollar companies. But while new technologies might arrive overnight, billion dollar companies will take time. That’s where the Cleanweb Initiative comes in. Formed as an industry association to organize, build and guide this rapidly growing movement, the Cleanweb Initiative is asking for your partnership. How can you contribute to the advancement of the Cleanweb?
If you work with a corporation, the Cleanweb needs market power and capital. If you’re an investor, there are businesses of all stages that are in search of partners for both financing and advisory needs. If you’re simply passionate about the movement, the Cleanweb Initiative is would like to invite you to attend their events around the world or contribute to their sector-focused Google Hangouts. If you are an entrepreneur or technologist, why not build that next billion dollar company?