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
Monday, May 28, 2012
Guardian - Until we get a 100% decarbonised grid, the marginal impact of efficiency is always to add more coal to a power station
[There is a great article in today’s Guardian about understanding the real challenges of decarbonizing our society with respect to the recent decision by Germany to shut down its nuclear plants- http://goo.gl/e6WCF.
“to meaningfully measure the impact of any action on a climate change, you need to recognise that the world is interconnected and measure the effects as widely as possible….The core point is this: until we get a 100% decarbonised grid, the marginal impact of turning off any existing low-carbon electricity source – or indeed adding to demand by switching a light on – is virtually always to add more coal to a power station.”
There are a lot of meaningful and well intentioned people doing some very creative work in terms of reducing energy consumption in all walks of life. But even though you may reduce your own consumption that does not mean that dirty coal plants will reduce their power output. If anything because you have reduced demand, that dirty power will be delivered to some other customer displacing some lower carbon alternative increasing overall GHG emissions. Because coal plants operate most profitably at 100% utilization there is a big incentive for operators to keep them operating at full output. If demand slackens it is much easier to spin down a gas turbine or reduce the import of power. The counter argument to that is if enough organizations in a country reduce their energy consumption then collectively we can reduce total consumption and therefore begin to shut down coal plants. And that may very well work in the West, particularly as we export manufacturing to China, India and other developing countries, but global GHG emissions will continue to rise.
Airplane engines are a good example. Aircraft manufacturers are going to great lengths to make airplane engines more energy efficient. In the West, this may result in overall emissions from aircraft declining, but more likely it will reduce cost of flying and increase emissions. But both scenarios are irrelevant when compared to China’s plans for its aircraft industry. In the next 20 years China plans to invest over three quarter trillion dollars in the aviation industry, build 100 airports about the size of Heathrow and deploy over 5000 new planes in addition to their existing fleet in the next 15 years. The emissions from all these new planes will dwarf any energy savings we may realize in the West. And this is only China. India and many other developing nations have similar ambitious plans.
A little known fact is that in the IPCC climate forecasts and discussion about “wedges” to reduce GHG emissions, no allowance is made for the billion people on earth who currently have no access to electricity or the additional billion and half who have intermittent electricity service. All of the IPCC and IEA models on energy efficiency assume that at least two and half billion of the planet’s population will remain in extreme poverty with little or no access to electricity. Do we expect these people not to have to the same lifestyle as we do in the developed world? What will happen to global emissions as they start to move out from subsistence style of living to enjoying the fruits of a modern western lifestyle?
It for these reasons I continue to argue that any effort focused on energy efficiency is doomed to failure and is virtually meaningless in terms of reducing GHG emissions. We need to focus on how to decarbonize our energy sources. But there is virtually no incentive for the global electrical power plant operators to reduce their dependency on coal. Even with a global carbon tax, the utilization profiles of coal plants and the plentiful availability of coal will insure that coal powered electricity will be our dominant form of global energy production. That is why we need to develop solutions that work independent of the electrical grid. This has the added benefit that if we start to experience severe weather disruption to the grid because of global warming, a distributed independent power system using only renewable energy will likely much more survivable and reliable.
The ICT sector should be leading the world in decarbonizing our society, not through meaningless energy efficiency, but build products and services that only work with renewable energy sources disconnected from the electrical grid. Please see my talk for the ITU symposium on greening IT for more information http://www.slideshare.net/bstarn/why-adaptation-is-more-important-than-mitigation
R&E Network and Green Internet Consultant.
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