Energy Consumption and the Opportunities for the IT Industry

3p Contributor | Thursday February 5th, 2009 | 0 Comments

By Sudha Reddy


The IT industry contributes the same amount of emissions as the global air travel industry. It’s rumored that about 7 tons of CO2 are emitted per every million Google searches. Imagine the gigantic datacenters and servers that need to run all across the world to find answers to your queries. Given our current effects of climate change, technologies are probably harmful to the environment. But think about the world’s carbon footprint without the internet. “The Internet itself is carbon negative” says Subodh Bagat, Vice President, Energy Efficiency at Sun Microsystems, speaking at a recent “State of the Green Clean Industry” conference in Santa Clara. “Think of all the pages you need to print and all the miles you travel to share information and you can do online shopping too.” Without the Internet we’d be forced to emit much more carbon than we already do.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the biggest areas of opportunity right now in reducing carbon emission. Datacenters are the first point of energy consumption in this industry. If datacenters can be more effectively harnessed by society, we can achieve huge energy savings. And unlike green consumer products, these can be made cost effective to the consumer. ICT’s can not only help in having a direct environmental impact but can also make people aware of the fact that things they do can have an indirect impact on the environment. Regulators should help force such efficiencies in this industry. Unlike Europe, the US regulations around ICT are focused on the wrong things. For example, a server is considered energy efficient if it uses less energy without comparison to how much work it does.

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2009 State of Green Business Forum: Progress, Caution, Hope

| Thursday February 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments

sogbfive.jpgThis Monday GreenBiz.com, led by one of the leading (and most entertaining) lights of green business, Joel Makower, held their first State of Green Business Forum. Built around the 2nd annual publication of their report of the same name, it served as a marker of progress, or in some cases lack of it, towards a more sustainable world, business and otherwise.
It was my first experience using Twitter as a reporting tool, sending out highlights of the day as I heard them, with those messages being “retweeted” (forwarded) by people on my network to people on theirs. Through the use of hash tags, people who wanted to follow the event were able to in a central place. Read our collective reporting here.

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Compostmodern: Fertile Ground for Creating a Sustainable Future

| Wednesday February 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Since 2004, Compostmodern has been a venue to create “fertile ground for sustainability.” A conference for sustainable design, Compostmodern is an interdisciplinary gathering of some of the best and brightest thinkers eager to explore new avenues in design and innovation to help create a society that responds positively to its social and environmental responsibilities.

Founded and sponsored by the San Francisco chapter of AIGA and the AIGA Center for Sustainable Design, Compostmodern is a conference that gives “fertile ground for sustainability,” providing a symposium for designers, manufacturers, and business leaders to meet, exchange ideas, and get inspired as they explore real-world opportunities for “transforming products, industries, and lives.”

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Shift Your Habit: A New Approach to Marketing the “Green Lifestyle”

| Wednesday February 4th, 2009 | 8 Comments

Shift%20Your%20Habit.pngThis isn’t a recent ad from Nissan, or the latest anti-smoking campaign from our friends Philip or Morris. Instead, it’s an up-and-coming attempt to simplify ecological living by putting the “friendly” back in “eco-friendly.” Shift Your Habit aims to affect behavior at an individual level, using approachable tips, tricks, and hints, as well as a stable of celebrity spokespeople to get the word out that you too can do something to live more consciously.

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Chipotle: Sustainable, Delicious, Profitable

| Wednesday February 4th, 2009 | 5 Comments

Chipotle.jpg Not only is Chipotle‘s food tasty and affordable, but the company is a leader in sustainability – from local, organic food purchasing to green building practices coupled with healthy sales and margins, Chipotle caught my eye. How do they do it? What is Chipotle doing that others in the food industry should learn from? I spoke with Chris Arnold, company spokesman, to find out.
I am always hearing of Chipotle’s advances in sustainability practices. But the first thing Arnold told me was, “We don’t have a sustainability initiative. All we do is ingrained in the way we run the business.” What? A leader without trying. Nine years ago a menu item wasn’t selling so well, so they switched to Niman Ranch naturally raised pork simply to help it sell better. Steve Ells, founder, CEO and head chef, visited some of Niman’s farms and loved what he saw; plus pigs raised well taste better. “When we switched to Niman we had to increase the price by $1, which changed carnitas from the cheapest to most expensive item on the menu at the time… our sales doubled,” Arnold told me. “We learned that people are willing to pay more for better food.”

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Stimulus Plan: Senate Version Adds Funding for Clean Coal

| Tuesday February 3rd, 2009 | 3 Comments

Clean%20Coal.jpgNow that the President’s stimulus bill has moved to the Senate, the clean energy debate is likely to take a different tack, raising the more fundamental issue of what constitutes “clean energy” and who gets to define it. The Senators from West Virginia, Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both Democrats, have been pushing to get as much funding as possible into the package for “clean coal” programs.
They have managed to tuck in $4.6 billion for coal-related projects to the Senate version of the bill, causing coal-related heartburn for many environmental advocates. The Senate funding is nearly double the $2.6 billion included in a current House version, and has received the blessing of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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The State of Green Business is Objectively Mixed, Subjectively Hopeful

| Tuesday February 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

State%20of%20Green%20Business%20Forum.gifJoel Makower, co-founder and executive editor of Greener World Media, kicked off today’s State of Green Business Forum which coincided with a release of GreenBiz.com’s second annual State of Green Business report. Nearly 500 attendees filled the PG&E Auditorium in San Francisco, representing 20 states, Fortune 500 companies, NGO’s, government entities, consulting firms, the media and more. I was lucky enough to attend and cover the piece for the GreenBiz.com blog where you can see my in-depth coverage of the event. This piece contains excerpts from that coverage.
The State of Green Business report cites 10 trends in green business, and ranks 20 indicators ranked on a swim (green), tread (yellow), or sink (red) basis. Five indicators are “swimming” (cleantech investments, clean-energy patents, energy efficiency, paper use and recycling, and water intensity); twelve are “treading water”, neither here nor there (including green jobs, green office space, carbon transparency, corporate reporting and toxic emissions), and three are reported as “sinking” (carbon intensity, employee telecommuting, and e-waste). The objective results indicate a mixed bag – we clearly have lots of work to do.
But the five panels that followed told a more optimistic story. Not surprisingly, corporate leaders touted their employer’s efforts and avoided negative impacts, while non-profit and policy leaders gave more wary status reports. But all were hopeful that we can overcome the obstacles before us.

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MethodCleaning Combines A Light Approach With C2C Principles

| Tuesday February 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Method Products, the cradle to cradle cleaning company, is an intriguing example of how marketing and green are not mutually exclusive. This San Francisco company, which generated a breathtaking $75 million worth of turnover in 2007 has opened its doors in the UK and will soon expand further into Europe.
Its worth keeping an eye out on what its directors, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, are doing,
if only because the Obama-Biden team spotted them and invited Ryan to the inauguration ceremony.
The same guy – a former marketing guru – also struck a recent deal to provide Microsoft with a modern image. He acts himself in the computer giant’s latest tv commercial, an animation themed ‘Be Weird – Be Different’. Check out the ad on the company’s blog here.

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Newspapers On-Demand: Greener, Interactive Solution for Tough Times?

| Monday February 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

Times are particularly tough for newspaper publishers, distributors and agents. Even august members of the industry, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, are feeling the pain and being forced to take some extraordinary measures to assure their sustainability while trying to adapt to a radically different news market and technological environment.
The emergence of commercial quality, on-demand digital distribution and publishing systems may afford participants all along the supply chain a “greener” way forward, though pulp & paper suppliers and truckers may be the worse off for it.

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Monterey Bay Shores: The “Greenest Ever” Eco-Resort Set to Break Ground on California Coast – Holistic Approach Pushes Boundaries of Sustainability

| Monday February 2nd, 2009 | 9 Comments

“Sustainability” can be a slippery term in the best of circumstances. Add “eco-resort” to that and you have a recipe for greenwash. Organic soap, low-flow shower heads, and encouraging guests to hang up their towels for one more use before washing is all well and good, but does not a truly sustainable eco-resort make. There are exceptions, of course, and one of the best examples I’ve seen is Monterey Bay Shores, a planned eco-resort located in Sand City, along the scenic Monterey Peninsula on California’s north-central coast. The seafaring, agricultural region made famous by John Steinbeck.

The project is the brainchild of developer Ed Ghandour and has been for him a sixteen-year journey. As with most journeys spanning such lengths of time, it has has presented significant challenges and setbacks, all of which, in the end, have helped bring to fruition what Ed hopes will be a new way of thinking about sustainable development for everyone involved, from government and business to environmentalists, local communities, and, indeed, the world.

Today marks the formal announcement of the project, currently set to break ground in March. If all goes according to plan, Monterey Bay Shores will be completed in late 2010 or early 2011 and consist of 105 hotel rooms, 63 hotel/condo units, and 85 residential units. But there’s a lot more to this story than the prospect of more hotel space on the Monterey peninsula. I recently met with Ed to discuss his journey, what he’s learned in the process, and how those lessons learned have shaped Ed’s vision, not only for Monterey Bay Shores, but for defining the very concept of sustainability.

“We are driving forward the nascent green development trade with a team of hand-picked sustainability experts that are pooling their knowledge to ensure every aspect of this project is environmentally profitable”, says Ghandour.

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Solar Stocks: Wall Street Heavyweight or Punching Bag?

Nick Hodge | Monday February 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

These are the top five names in solar: First Solar, Renewable Energy Corp., Q-Cells, SunPower, Suntech.
This is their stock performance over the past year:

In the best case from those five scenarios, First Solar, the stock is down 26%; in the worst case, Suntech, the stock is down 83%.

Something just doesn’t seem right here. Over 5.2 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity were installed last year–a record that crushes the 2.2 GW installed in 2007. But despite the 136% year-over-year capacity growth, shaky policy and deteriorating finance conditions have given investors cold feet, driving down stock prices as you can clearly see.

So what’s going on here? Has Wall Street rightfully rowed its solar boat ashore, or has their short-sightedness left solar shares ripe for the picking?

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Sentilla’s Energy Manager: If You Can’t Measure IT, You Can’t Manage IT

| Monday February 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

Sentilla%20logo.gifAll of the major server and microprocessor manufacturers are now offering more efficient systems that draw less electricity and/or generate less heat. (Cooling accounts for about half of an IT centers overall energy usage.) Along with more efficient hardware, IT managers can now choose from a growing number of energy management systems. A recent entrant to this sector is Sentilla, who last week released their innovative Energy Manager for Data Centers.
Demands on the world’s data infrastructure are growing exponentially along with concerns over the related environmental impact. In 2005, an estimated 1% of the entire world’s electricity consumption was attributed to data centers alone (enough to power the entire state of Utah!). And a recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry is now generating as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines – about 2% of global CO2 emissions. Not surprisingly, IT managers are spending more of their time looking for ways reduce their energy usage as well as their carbon footprint.

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Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Sunday February 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Sunday still counts as the end of the week, right kids?
sugar.jpgRaw Materials now Eligible for Cradle to Cradle Certification! McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) is taking its Cradle to Cradle analysis further down the product supply chain with its new Cradle to Cradle Approved Ingredient certification. Hopefully this new division will bring MBDC out from under the raincloud of the recent Fast Company article about how trigger happy MDBC is with the lawsuits surrounding the use of Cradle to Cradle. Please don’t sue me, Bill! I got nothing.
steps.jpgGreenBiz has a very timely feature on ten steps for marketing sustainably in an uncertain economy. If you’re interested in sustainable marketing, don’t forget to check out our new series Conversations in Cause Marketing, written by 3P superstar Gennefer Snowfield
beer.jpgNew Belgium Brewing Slashes Cardboard Packaging
New Belgium says “we don’t need no stinking cardboard,” removing the cardboard partitions from almost all of its 12-packs. Based on the company’s current level of production, that will eliminate 150 tons of cardboard and save New Belgium about $280,000 in the next year! As if I need another reason to drink beer.

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What Can Jobseekers Expect From Obama’s $30 Billion Incentives Package To The Renewable Energy Sector?

| Friday January 30th, 2009 | 4 Comments

President Barack Obama’s plans to increase the production of renewable energy to double the current levels by 2012 and one of his first acts has been to provide $30 billion in tax incentives to this industry. That was $10 billion more than had been anticipated. The move supports the optimism of the people who anticipate surging growth in the green jobs market.
Recent research by think tank and academic institutions shows that significant job increases in the green sector is expected. The reports provide helpful information for people interested in employment in a green job. Many of them offer detailed information of anticipated growth per sector and region, which is exactly what job seekers need.
A recent survey of the Academy for Educational Development (AED) advises green job seekers to consider a community college as their ‘dream school’.

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Paul Detering: Change Is Coming to the Solar Industry

| Friday January 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Since my last post from the Solar Power International 2008 conference in San Diego, large amounts of the bailout bill have been distributed, Obama has taken office, and the automakers have their bailout as well. “Change” is coming in many forms. In San Diego, we experienced a surge of exuberance around the passing of the solar investment tax credit (ITC) as the logjam of pent-up deals began to move forward. But now, having a couple months for the market to digest what has happened and for people to realize what all these changes mean, a very different renewable energy world is emerging.
 
I’ve had a lot of queries since October about how significantly the financial crisis has crippled alternative energy – specifically, tax equity-based solar projects. Certainly, albeit temporary, declining costs for petroleum-based energy further raises questions about the timing to move to renewable energy. The industry momentum that was building has undoubtedly faltered.
 
That said, the financial crisis hasn’t been all bad. It has, in some ways, supported the business model for companies like Tioga. For some time, people were predicting Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), a third-party project finance mechanism, to represent 50% to 80% of the commercial solar market and a recent Alta Terra survey shows this number now over 70% for 2008. The financial crisis has helped this along because more than ever, companies want to hold onto their capital to help ride out this financial storm and save money where they can. One way to do that and go green is through a solar PPA that allows them to trade a portion of their current utility bill for a potentially lower one via solar, without the burden of additional debt or capital outlay. And, despite the plummeting costs of oil and natural gas (which never seems to translate into lower utility prices nearly as quickly as they went up), it only serves to demonstrate the hedge value a PPA offers against volatility in energy prices.

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