Green Internet and Cyber-infrastructure Overview
Governments around the world are wrestling with the challenge of how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The current preferred approaches are to impose carbon taxes and implement various forms of cap and trade. However another approach to help reduce carbon emission is to “reward” those directly who reduce their carbon footprint and complement their existing lifestyle. One possible reward system is to provide homeowners with free fiber to the home or free wireless products and other electronic services such as ebooks and eMovies if they deploy micro renewable energy sources for their ICT equipment and use eVehicles for energy transportation. Not only does the consumer benefit, but this business model also provides new revenue opportunities for small businesses, network operators, and eCommerce application providers.
Linking renewable energy with the Internet using eVehicles and dynamic charging where vehicle's batteries are charged as it travels along the road, may provide for a whole new "energy Internet" infrastructure for linking small distributed renewable energy sources to users. For more details please see:
How North American suburban sprawl could be the answer to global warning: http://goo.gl/UDz37
Free High Speed Internet to the Home: http://goo.gl/wGjVG
High level architecture of Building Zero Carbon Networks: http://goo.gl/juWdH
Thursday, September 30, 2010
The Canadian Standards Association (CSA), one of the world’s largest standards organizations is developing globally recognized GHG standards based on the ISO 14064 to develop verifiable and auditable measurements of GHG reduction from the use of ICT. This will help quantify whether claims of lower PUE, virtualization or clouds actually do reduce GHG.
They have kindly me allowed to publish the following overview of Carbon Accounting for Green IT. For those who have a genuine interest in moving beyond green washing and help reduce the GHG impact of ICT I suggest you contact the authors listed at the end of this presentation – BSA]
For more information on this item please visit my blog at
http://green-broadband.blogspot.com/ or http://billstarnaud.blogspot.com
An illustrative example of this staggering growth rate in ICT, again according to the IEA, is that fact that ICT represents the biggest energy consumption in many modern western home due to the aggregate electrical power draw from ICT devices such as flat screen TVs, computers, set top boxes, chargers, etc. This aggregate load exceeds the energy consumption of tradition appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, dish washers, etc. What is more astounding that energy consumption from ICT in our homes was virtually non-existent a decade ago.
We simply cannot let the ICT industry become the new bad boy of environmental GHG emissions. Our industry must immediately take steps to stop this unsustainable growth in energy consumption and CO2 emissions. And if we have any hope of reducing GHG emissions globally we must take immediate steps to make ICT products and services zero carbon.
Energy efficiency will not do it. A simple math calculation shows that we would need impossible gains in efficiency of 50-70% year over year over year on all new ICT products and services just to keep energy consumption emissions constant to what they are today. We must move beyond energy efficiency and look at building zero carbon solutions where all ICT equipment is powered by renewable energy sources only. We already have many good examples of how this can be done which I have blogged about in previous posts. – BSA]
For more information please see
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Why Energy Efficiency Does not Decrease Energy Consumption
By Harry Saunders
I recently co-authored an article for the Journal of Physics ("Solid-state lighting: an energy-economics perspective" by Jeff Tsao, Harry Saunders, Randy Creighton, Mike Coltrin, Jerry Simmon, August 19, 2010) analyzing the increase in energy consumption that will likely result from new (and more efficient) solid-state lighting (SSL) technologies. The article triggered a round of commentaries and responses that have confused the debate over energy efficiency. What follows is my attempt to clarify the issue, and does not necessarily represent the views of my co-authors.
More Efficient Lighting Will Increase, Not Decrease, Energy Consumption
Our Journal of Physics article drew on 300 years of evidence to shows that, as lighting becomes more energy efficient, and thus cheaper, we use ever-more of it. The result, we note, is that "over the last three centuries, and even now, the world spends about 0.72% of its GDP on light. This was the case in the UK in 1700 (UK 1700), is the case in the undeveloped world not on grid electricity in modern times, and is the case for the developed world in modern times using the most advanced lighting technologies."
The implications of this research are important for those who care about global warming. In recent years, more efficient light bulbs have been widely viewed as an important step to reducing energy consumption and thus greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Moreover, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have produced analyses that assume energy efficiency technologies will provide a substantial part of the remedy for climate change by reducing global energy consumption approximately 30 percent -- a reduction nearly sufficient to offset projected economic growth-driven energy consumption increases.
Many have come to believe that new, highly-efficient, solid-state lighting -- generally LED technology, like that used on the displays of stereo consoles, microwaves, and digital clocks -- will result in reduced energy consumption. We find the opposite is true, concluding "that there is a massive potential for growth in the consumption of light if new lighting technologies are developed with higher luminous efficacies and lower cost of light."
The good news is that increased light consumption has historically been tied to higher productivity and quality of life. The bad news is that energy efficient lighting should not be relied upon as means of reducing aggregate energy consumption, and therefore emissions. We thus write: "These conclusions suggest a subtle but important shift in how one views the baseline consequence of the increased energy efficiency associated with SSL. The consequence is not a simple 'engineering' decrease in energy consumption with consumption of light fixed, but rather an increase in human productivity and quality of life due to an increase in consumption of light." This phenomenon has come to be known as the energy "rebound" effect.
The Empirical Evidence for Rebound
The findings of our SSL research inspired The Economist magazine to write a commentary about the study that was mostly correct but made a couple of errors, which we responded to in a letter. In our response, we clarified that energy prices would need to increase 12 percent, not three-fold, in order to reduce the consumption of electricity for lighting, which, to its credit, The Economist posted on its web site and published in its letters section.
Evans Mills of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wrote on the Climate Progress blog that The Economist had "inverted" our findings. However, The Economist did not "invert" our findings, it had simply overstated an implication of them.
Efficiency advocates sometimes dismiss rebound by only looking at "direct" energy consumption -- that is, consumption by households and for private transportation. Examples of rebound in this part of the energy economy would be driving your Prius more because gasoline costs you very little, or turning up the thermostat in your efficient home. But these "direct-use" rebounds are small in comparison to "indirect-use" rebounds in energy consumption. Globally, some two-thirds of all energy is consumed indirectly-- in the energy used to produce goods and services. A residential washing machine may be energy efficient in terms of function, but in terms of production, the metal body alone requires energy to mine, smelt, stamp, coat, assemble and transport it to a dealer showroom and eventually a residential home. The energy embedded in your washing machine, or just about any product or service you consume, is very large. And remember that any money you save on your energy bills through efficient appliances or the like is re-spent on other goods and services, which each take energy to produce, all while more productive use of our money (e.g. in spending, savings and production) spurs a more robust economy, demanding even more energy.
As our recent SSL research suggests, there is strong empirical evidence that even in the "direct" part of the economy, the rebound effect can sometimes be so substantial as to eliminate essentially all energy reduction gains. But in my new research (which relies on a detailed, theoretically rigorous econometric analysis of real data), the rebound effect found in the larger "indirect" part of the economy is even more significant -- and more worrisome.
Varying degrees of rebound occur because the phenomenon works in several ways. Increasingly efficient technologies effectively lower the cost of energy, as well as the products and services in which it is embedded. This results in firms consuming more energy relative to other production inputs and producing more output profitably. Firms and individuals benefit from cheaper and more abundant products and services, causing them to find many more uses for these (and the energy they contain). A more efficient steel plant, for example, produces cheaper steel that, in turn, allows firms and individuals to afford to find more uses for the same material.
While some find the notion that increased energy efficiency increases energy consumption to be counter-intuitive, the economic theory is remarkably commonsensical. Mills claims that the idea that the rebound effect "has been postulated in theory but never shown empirically to be significant" is not the case. After many years, rebound theory has advanced to the point that it is now a reliable foundation for empirical study and the empirical evidence firmly suggests rebound exists. And remember that the "rebound effect" for other factors of production is expected, even welcomed; economists have long expected labor productivity improvements to drive even greater economic activity, for example, thus increasing demand for labor and creating new employment opportunities in the economy as a whole, even as efficient production may eliminate a handful of jobs at one factory.
The Implications of Rebound
There are significant potential implications of high levels of rebound. One is that greater energy efficiency may be a net positive in increasing economic productivity and growth but should not be relied upon as a way to reduce energy consumption and thus greenhouse gas emissions. Particularly in a world where many billions lack sufficient access to modern energy services, efficient technologies such as solid-state lighting may be central to uplifting human dignity and improving quality of life through much of the world. One might even argue that energy efficiency is still important from a climate perspective, because when efficiency leads to greater economic growth, societies will be better able and more willing to invest in more expensive but cleaner energy sources. But in this way energy efficiency is no different from other strategies for increasing economic growth. What should be reconsidered is the assumption that energy efficiency results in a direct, net decrease in aggregate energy consumption when there is a growing body of research suggesting the opposite.
Dr. Harry Saunders has a B.S. in Physics from the University of Alberta, an M.S. in Resources Planning from the University of Calgary, and a Ph.D. in Engineering-Economic Systems from Stanford University. Saunders coined the "Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate" in 1992 to describe macro-economic theories of energy rebound, and has published widely on energy economics, evolutionary biology, and legal theory. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Monday, September 20, 2010
Most climate policies such as cap and trade and/or carbon tax are imposing cost on today’s generation for which they will see no benefit. Since CO2 will stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years and unlike past environmental problems such as acid rain, CFCs (ozone destruction), etc any reduction in CO2 emission will only SLOW DOWN the rate of global warming. It will not stop the warming of the planet, never mind reversing the trend. So, although the public will go a small way to doing their “bit” to reduce CO2 emissions it is unlikely that they will accept the massive cost increases and radical changes to their lifestyle for the benefit of generations hundreds or thousands of years from now.
Roger Pielke has argued, as I have, that we need climate policies that provide IMMEDIATE and tangible benefits to the public, but have the added feature of also reducing CO2 emissions. Such policies must also be conducive to our current lifestyle and not demand a sack cloth and ashes solutions. Hence my argument for policies like “cap and reward” where consumers and businesses would receive credits directly to purchase low carbon products or services in exchange for paying a carbon tax or levy on their carbon consumption. Rather than having a carbon levy disappear in the hands of government to be spent on dubious projects heavily influenced by lobbyists, or worse into the hands of unscrupulous carbon offset traders, the money would be returned directly to consumers. The only catch is that consumer is restricted to e spending the returned funds on low carbon products or services, hopefully creating a virtuous circle of low carbon living.
The Internet can play a major role in delivering these low carbon products or services through de-materialization of physical products. The Internet and broadband delivery to the home can also be a leading example, in its own right, of an eligible low carbon product that could be paid for through these carbon credits.
Some would argue that energy efficiency should be part of this equation, as well. But for those of you who follow my blog know that I am very skeptical about energy efficiency in any form as it is tackling the wrong problem. The problem facing this planet is not energy consumption, but the type of energy we are consuming. We need to address the real problem – and that is eliminating energy sources that produce CO2. Smart ICT (Information, Computer, Telecommunication) technologies that eliminate the need for energy produced from fossil fuels directly, rather than trying to improve overall energy efficiency, will have far more greater bang for the buck.
I have cited many examples of this type of approach in my writings and blogs such as powering data centers with renewable energy, mobile charging for electric vehicles, 400 Hz multiplex electrical systems to power all standby electronics in our homes, solar powered cell phone networks, etc. These approaches also enhance and complement today’s modern suburban lifestyle of commuting and conspicuous consumption – which is necessary for consumer adoption.
Although ICT, including the Internet, represents 2-3% of all global emissions and 6-10% of energy consumption, it is doubling every 10 years. Even in our homes, according to the IEA, ICT products and services, in aggregate consume more energy than our traditional appliances such as stove, dishwashers etc. While other sectors of society are starting to address their CO2 emissions, the ICT community has barely started. Given the rapid growth of the ICT industry if we do not do something soon, in a few years we will soon be seen as the bad boys of CO2 emissions. – BSA]
Roger Pielke’s blog
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Boosting sustainable economic growth is high on government agendas. The Recommendation of the OECD Council on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the Environment supports governments to increase the environmental benefits of ICT applications and improve environmental impacts of ICTs. As governments embark on green growth paths, this recommendation addresses areas where public sector action can help overcome shortcomings identified in OECD reports on ICT and the environment. OECD analysis shows that most “Green ICT” initiatives concentrate on the direct effects of ICTs themselves rather than tackling climate change and environmental degradation through the use of ICTs as an enabling or “smart” technology
About the ICCP Technology Foresight Forum
First launched in 2005, Technology Foresight Forums are an annual event organised by the OECD Committee for Information, Computer, and Communications Policy to help identify opportunities and challenges for the Internet Economy posed by technical developments. Foresight forums represent a collaborative effort of policy makers from member and non-member governments, business, civil society, and the Internet technical community. Past forum topics include RFID, Next Generation Networks, Participative Web, and Cloud computing.
Greener and Smarter: ICTs, the environment and climate change
The report develops a framework for assessing the environmental benefits and impacts of ICTs, including the direct impacts of technologies themselves as well the impacts of ICTs in improving environmental performance more widely. The report outlines empirical findings on environmental impacts for a range of ICT and Internet applications in energy, transport, waste management and others.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are a key enabler of “green growth” in all sectors of the economy. They are a key part of government strategies for a sustainable economic
“Greener and smarter” ICTs include ICTs with better environmental performance than previous generations (direct impacts) and ICTs that can be used to improve environmental performance
throughout the economy and society (enabling and systemic impacts).
-Direct environmental impacts of ICTs are considerable in areas such as energy use, materials throughput and end-of-life treatment. Government “green ICT” policies can be instrumental in promoting life-cycle approaches for improved R&D and design of ICT goods, services and systems.
Innovative ICT applications enable sustainable production and consumption across the entire economy. The potential for improving environmental performance targets specific products, but also entire systems and industry sectors, e.g. construction, transport, energy. Governments can promote cross-sector R&D programmes, national and regional initiatives as well as local pilot projects. This is particularly important in areas where structural barriers, e.g. lack of commercial incentives or high investment costs, may hinder the rapid uptake of “smart” ICTs.
Information and communication are pivotal for system-wide mitigation of environmental impacts and adaptation to inevitable changes in the environment. Governments can stimulate further research into the systemic impacts – intended and unintended – of the diffusion of ICTs in order to assess how ICTs and the Internet contribute to environmental policy goals in the long term.
Measurement of the environmental impacts of “green and smart” ICTs remains an important issue to address. Especially with regards to enabling and systemic impacts, available empirical analysis is methodologically diverse, making comparisons difficult.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
This is the freshest idea yet about out-of-the-box thinking on how to use solar power. The inventors claim that if all the roadways in the US were converted to solar panels there would be enough energy to power the entire US plus more
As I mentioned before depending on the utilities to solve our green house gas and energy problems is like asking the telcos if they think the Internet should be free. They are incapable of thinking of alternate solutions such as described in this video.
I suspect there remains many practical problems and costs – but this is the type of thinking we need for mobile charging of electric vehicles. Charge your vehicle while it is moving or stuck in traffic – not static overnight charging at our homes. The entire roadway does not have to be converted – but only small sections sufficiently spaced to top up the car batteries every few miles. As I mentioned before it is an ideal solution for drive through banks and fast food restaurants. “Will that be fries with your charge?” It is also in line with our modern lifestyle and does not require a hair shirt approach to reducing CO2.
A must-watch---they’re busy developing a prototype.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Not such a bright idea
Making lighting more efficient could increase energy use, not decrease it
Aug 26th 2010
Less is more
SOLID-STATE lighting, the latest idea to brighten up the world while saving the planet, promises illumination for a fraction of the energy used by incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. A win all round, then: lower electricity bills and (since lighting consumes 6.5% of the world’s energy supply) less climate-changing carbon dioxide belching from power stations.
Well, no. Not if history is any guide. Solid-state lamps, which use souped-up versions of the light-emitting diodes that shine from the faces of digital clocks and flash irritatingly on the front panels of audio and video equipment, will indeed make lighting better. But precedent suggests that this will serve merely to increase the demand for light. The consequence may not be just more light for the same amount of energy, but an actual increase in energy consumption, rather than the decrease hoped for by those promoting new forms of lighting.
That, at least, is the conclusion of a study published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics by Jeff Tsao of Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and his colleagues. They predict that the introduction of solid-state lighting could increase the consumption of light by a factor of ten within two decades.
To work out what solid-state lighting would do to the use of light by 2030, Dr Tsao and his colleagues made some assumptions about global economic output, the price of energy, the efficiency of the new technology and its cost. Assuming that, by 2030, solid-state lights will be about three times more efficient than fluorescent ones and that the price of electricity stays the same in real terms, the number of megalumen-hours consumed by the average person will, according to their model, rise tenfold, from 20 to 202. The amount of electricity needed to generate that light would more than double. Only if the price of electricity were to triple would the amount of electricity used to generate light start to fall by 2030.
Dr Tsao and his colleagues see no immediate end to this process by which improvements in the supply of light stimulate the desire for more—rather as the construction of that other environmental bête noire, roads, stimulates the growth of traffic.
It is worth remembering that when gas lights replaced candles and oil lamps in the 19th century, some newspapers reported that they were “glaring” and “dazzling white”. In fact, a gas jet of the time gave off about as much light as a 25 watt incandescent bulb does today. To modern eyes, that is well on the dim side. So, for those who truly wish to reduce the amount of energy expended on lighting the answer may not be to ban old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, as is the current trend, but to make them compulsory.
Friday, September 3, 2010
I believe it is a generally accepted principle that any increase in living standards comes only with an increase in productivity. Throughout history an increase in living standards has always resulted in an increase in energy consumption, because consumers can afford more physical good such as cars and appliances. They can eat also afford richer diets of meat and travel more.
Simply put, productivity means more units of output for every unit of input. Inputs are primarily made up of raw material, labour and energy. Outputs can be anything from physical goods such as automobiles to every day services such as hair cuts.
The electric car as being touted as one of the saviors from the environmental damage caused by the internal combustion engine. There is no question that an electric vehicle will consume far less energy than a traditional fossil fuel driven car. And pound for pound basis it will produce far less CO2, than today’s gas guzzlers, even if the electricity comes solely from coal fired power plants. So how can electric vehicles be bad for the environment??
Simple economics. The electric vehicle is an example of increased productivity through energy efficiency. Once car manufacturers reduce the cost of batteries as the industry scales up the electric car will far cheaper to run and operate than today’s vehicles. In terms of miles per Watt the electric vehicle is far more efficient than today’s automobiles. This means that many more millions of families around the world will now be able to afford a car for the first time in their lives. India’s Tata Nano is a great example of a low cost vehicle for the masses – but given the price of gasoline (and its pending shortage) the biggest cost of the Nano over its lifetime will be in its fuel consumption and not its capital cost. But imagine if the Tata was an electric vehicle – then that huge potential of fuel cost is eliminated.
The automobile is the standard bearer of an economy’s move from an agrarian to a modern industrial society. Electric vehicles will be especially attractive to countries which have to import most of their oil, as they can use their dirty coal plants to power the millions of electric vehicles.
So while energy efficiency through electric vehicles may reduce the overall CO2 emissions in rich industrialized nations (assuming there is a one to one replacement of gasoline powered cars with electric vehicles) its decreased cost will enable millions of more families in the developed world to buy cars. As a result the absolute volume of CO2 emissions will increase over time as most of the electric power for these vehicles will come from coal plants. As many of you know this phenomena of energy efficiency is called the Jevons paradox or the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate. Simply stated energy efficiency at the micro level paradoxically increases energy consumption at the macro level. Even if we implement a substantial carbon tax, the efficiencies of the electric vehicle will still make it affordable for many millions of families around the world to buy a car for the first time.
It is not only electric vehicles, but data centers, computers and host of other products and services where we see this phenomena at play. The narrow focus on energy efficiency in any particular field may save money for an individual or company, but the bottom line is that increased energy efficiency means increased productivity and ultimately greater affordability for millions around the world. As a result overall energy consumption will increase as millions more can afford these products and services. In turn, if most of this electricity comes from coal fired plants, the global volume of GHG emissions will invariably rise.
So what is the answer? Are we to throw are hands up in despair that there is no solution to climate change?
No. We have to rethink the problem. The biggest challenge facing the planet is not energy consumption, but the type of energy we consume. If all our energy came from renewable sources than any growth in demand for energy as a result of inevitable growth in productivity will not result in a concomitant increase of GHG emissions. So rather then designing products and services to be more energy efficient, we should instead focus on how these devices can operate using solely renewable energy.
The biggest challenge with renewable energy is its unreliability. Energy storage is part of the solution, as well continent spanning electrical grids. But, in addition, I believe we need a sustained research effort in designing products and services that can still be just as reliable as today, but powered solely by local renewable energy. In the Internet and computing world this is relatively easy – in Canada for example we are deploying the world’s first zero carbon Internet/cloud where all the computing and routing nodes are powered solely by local renewable resources. Again the significance of this approach is that GHG emissions will not increase as energy consumption increases when the network scales to meet growth in demand for new services.
In terms of the electric car I have proposed “mobile electric vehicle charging” as a solution where solar panel and windmills along the roadside or at drive through fast food restaurants are used to recharge vehicles as they drive by, or waiting in a queue at a traffic light or take out counter. Rather than using dirty electricity from the grid, this approach insures electric vehicles are powered only by renewable energy. Its also a technology that takes advantage of the North America drive through life style, as opposed to some other hair shirt approaches through environmental denialism. For more details please see http://green-broadband.blogspot.com/2010/04/green-investment-opportunity-for-small.html
If we have any hope of addressing climate change we have got to start addressing the real problem – GHG emissions, not energy consumption. As quickly as possible we need to eliminate coal fired power stations and switch to renewable energy. But using renewable energy means rethinking our entire energy architecture. This not only entail changes at the production side with smart grids etc, but also changes at the consumption side in terms of devising solutions that can use such unreliable power.
Think carbon, not energy.
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- Excellent new OECD report on Green ICT
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