If Internet companies and some utilities have their way, the smart grid will rely on the existing infrastructure of the information superhighway in order to function. They argue that by relying on existing standards like Internet Protocol (IP), the smart grid will grow faster and more organically than if utilities adopt an assortment of proprietary methods. Issues like security become easier to address too because the Internet manages exceptionally sensitive data quite well with existing technologies. To that end, the players dominating in the Internet arena including Google, Microsoft, and Cisco are all banking on the Internet’s role in the future of electricity management.
The high tech industry will play a significant role in the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as long as the Internet remains a level playing field. The opportunities for software companies to innovate in the energy generation and energy efficiency sectors are substantial if the priority of traffic over the Internet remains neutral (i.e., the FCC adopts net neutrality rules).
The smart grid is the main prerequisite to the Internet’s involvement in energy. The Obama Administration recently announced $3.4 billion in the development of the smart grid and related technologies. Much of these funds went directly to utilities to provide smart meters in homes and businesses. Southern California Edison has already started its rollout of smart meters under a program called SmartConnect; they hope to have 5 million smart meters active by 2012.
The importance of doing nothing well will play a big role in the conservation of energy and the fight against climate change.
According to a 2007 study by the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, an energy-efficient computer server consumes 50 percent of its peak power when idle. The article pushed for energy-proportional computing, in other words, to consume more power as you compute more.
This may sound intuitive, but it is not how designers of many computers and more importantly, computer networks implement their systems today. The relevance to climate change becomes apparent when one considers that computers contribute the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as aviation according to a report published by the Climate Group, and overall percentage from computers will grow by 2020 if business as usual continues.
Did you know that America’s largest installed solar power plant is located on Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada? The 14-megawatt solar array (shown at left) went live in late 2007 and remains the largest solar power plant in the United States.
While First Solar’s recent announcement of two 250-megawatt solar power plants in California dwarfs the military’s solar array, the fact remains that for a considerable amount of time the military will have operated the largest solar array in the United States. Why would the military take this step? The answer is energy security.
Biofuels offer a unique opportunity for the developing world. Almost 80 percent of the remaining land that has cultivation potential resides in South America and Africa, according to research supported by the United Nations.
However, without a standard method for determining the impact of biofuels on the environment, international bodies like the U.N. will tread carefully when discussing the role of bioenergy in mitigating the effects of climate change, despite the potential economic benefits for the developing world.
The future of bioenergy from algae and bioengineered feedstocks is an exciting and promising opportunity for life science to take a larger role in sustaining our energy needs.
The fight for leadership in clean-tech is underway. The next decade will prove pivotal in determining where the Silicon Valley of clean-tech will reside. While the U.S. is now putting considerable resources into clean-tech, the strongest competitor has only just entered the contest.
Announced in July, China’s Golden Sun program will increase installed capacity of solar power by five times its 2008 level in the next 2-3 years. China also initiated a residential program to subsidize solar. The nation has quickly emerged as a major player in one of renewable energy’s key sectors. Furthermore, China earmarked nearly $100 billion of economic stimulus for projects related to climate change. This is not to mention the enormous growth of the wind power industry in China, which required Chinese lawmakers to double their wind power prediction for 2010. The country plans to add wind capacity to match the massive Three Gorges Dam within the next decade. All the while, China has strict protectionist rules limiting the beneficiaries to local companies. The likely best hope for foreign entities is to collaborate with their Chinese counterparts similar to the success of American automakers.
President Obama is the only person capable of speaking directly to the American people in a way that will correct the course of climate change legislation in Congress before it is too late. Congress has never been closer to enacting a price on pollution related to global warming than it is today but proposed legislation is in serious jeopardy of being torpedoed by misinformation and most importantly, a lack of leadership. Congress risks the viability of climate change law further by the method in which it passes related legislation; climate change is a long-term fight and the public must perceive it to be like other continuing programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Propaganda about the effects of cap-and-trade on the economy is one of the primary factors that could bring it down in the Senate. The opposition framed cap-and-trade as a threat to economic growth and a national energy tax; in response supporters of legislation have described it as a jobs bill. Neither are entirely true but the opposition’s argument is easier to believe, despite evidence to the contrary.