By Jim Fletcher, Distinguished Engineer and Chief Architect, Smarter Infrastructure, IBM
With gas once again flirting with $4 per gallon, imagine shopping for a car in a world where vehicles didn’t come with mileage ratings.
Sure, a smart driver would likely a gut feeling that the pint-sized Prius would be cheaper to fuel than the hulking Hummer for sale next to it. But without official data, or at least a Hummer driver willing to share mileage figures, it’d be tough to know for sure what it would cost to operate the two vastly different vehicles for years to come.
It sounds absurd. Yet for most buyers of houses, commercial buildings and other properties, that far-fetched scenario is pretty much the reality today. Buyers have precious little information of how much energy a given property will consume.
Yet while we’d roll our eyes at the owner of a super-sized SUV who seems surprised about high fill-up costs, who hasn’t heard a story of a person who bought a home only to discover later that it’s hugely expensive to heat and cool?
Luckily city planners, engineers and companies are recognizing that the vacuum of information about building performance is a key to boosting building efficiency, and improving real estate market information—better data helps owners and their tenants make smarter decisions.
An intriguing effort to make this sort of building performance data more transparent surfaced recently in New York City. It’s a map of the city’s five boroughs, color-coded to show the energy intensity of practically every building in the Big Apple’s dense mix of commercial, residential, and mixed-use regions.
At the United Nations’ climate summit in Rio, the German minister of environmental development, Peter Altmaier, created a new word for the English speaking world: Energy-Wende.
Energy-Wende is the shift away from nuclear power toward alternative energy sources like solar energy, wind power and other renewable energies. After the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011, the German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to phase out nuclear power, which is being followed with great interest by the whole world. “If we succeed in converting the energy revolution, and still remain competitive, then we become a model for the world,” Altmaier added.
Large power networks are required for the nuclear phase-out and conversion to renewable energy. Wind is currently the most important source among renewable energy. Unfortunately, wind power is generated not where the need is greatest, but where the wind blows most – in front of the North and Baltic Sea coast.
This electricity has to be transported from the north to the south. That was different in the past, when conventional power plants were built near large cities and industrial centers. In addition, the supply varies with wind and solar power, depending on the weather. The electricity networks must be able to efficiently absorb it and move it to the point of consumption. The network expansion is therefore a fundamental part of energy policy, just as Smart Grids should be. Smart Grids use IT to gather and act on information in an automated way to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.
IBM Germany calls for the extension of intelligent networks to support the “Energy-Wende” in Germany
Smart Grids: Nervous system of the energy transition
By 2020, renewable energy sources should supply at least 35 percent of the required electricity in Germany. This conversion will cost about 200 billion Euros, though reliable estimates are difficult. Apart from investments in new power plants, transmission lines and energy storage, power grids must be equipped with additional intelligence. Without “smart grids” the green rebuilding of the energy supply is inefficient and the stability of the networks is at risk. Therefore the technology industry and leaders like IBM must partner with energy suppliers and governments to help accelerate smart grid activity.
By Ulisses Mello
Director, Natural Resources
Last week, Brazil’s Petrobras made yet another major discovery in a giant offshore oil region that could contain as much as 10 billion barrels of oil. That would be enough to meet the needs of the United States, the world’s biggest oil consumer, for one year.
That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that prospecting for oil, drilling, and moving the oil to the shore in this region off Brazil’s coast is very expensive, technically challenging and perceived as risky to the environment. That’s primarily because of the extreme depth of the ocean floor in the area, more than 2,000 meters, and the difficult geological conditions, including a 2,000-meter-thick layer of salt.
The complications swirling around Brazil’s offshore oil bonanza illustrate the challenges facing the world’s natural resources industries—including oil, natural gas and mining. A lot is going on all at once. Demand is expected to soar when global economic growth resumes, especially in emerging markets. Yet, in many cases, new discoveries are expensive and harder to extract. At the same time, environmental concerns put restrictions on the whole range of natural resource business activities—from production to refining to distribution. And, in the near future, alternative energy sources could radically alter the business landscape. To cap it off, politics adds extra risks and uncertainties.
I believe that natural resources companies will be able to better handle these complex forces if they take advantage of a new generation of data analytics technologies and adopt a more holistic view of their key business imperatives. Today, too many companies see efficiency, effectiveness and environmental sustainability as three separate requirements. They keep them in silos. New data management and analytics technologies make it easier to understand the interdependencies between these imperatives and to manage them better.
by Ben Goldhirsh, Co-Founder and CEO, GOOD
The recent housing crisis in 2009 spurs one entrepreneur to start a business focused on green building techniques that provides affordable housing developments and sustainable housing. Another entrepreneur creates an online exchange for friends and neighbors to share items like garden tools, camping gear and small kitchen appliances in an effort to reduce the amount we consume.
Smaller organizations are seizing the opportunity to act socially responsible — to maintain a balance between the economy and the ecosystem.
Many companies believe they have a responsibility to “give back” to society, whether it be by delivering environmentally-friendly products and services or simply a desire to improve the lives of individuals here and around the globe. Such socially responsible companies see to it that this “consciousness” permeates everything they do.
However, a trade-off always exists between economic development and the welfare of society and the environment. Social responsibility means sustaining the equilibrium between the two.
For some time, we’ve been focused on businesses, talking with entrepreneurs and CEOs around the world, examining how consumer trends influence how companies do business. In fact, we’ve found many small and midsize businesses who not only bring successful business services to the table, but also have a financial model that supports core strengths such as diversity, creativity, sustainability, social responsibility, globalization and innovation.
By Andy Bochman, Energy Security Lead
Read the headlines and you will see that Cybersecurity threats to critical infrastructures continue to evolve. While it’s important for utility companies to stay abreast of the latest attack types, they must also look beyond external factors and turn their efforts to re-establishing and strengthening their organizational structure. The first step must start from within if they are to succeed in maintaining the stability, safety and security of the Smart Grid. It starts with re-defining the term “leadership.”
Recently IBM met with Michael Assante, President and CEO of the National Board of Information Security Examiners to get his perspective on the evolving security landscape within the Energy & Utilities industry. In his current role and also once serving as the Chief Security Officer for North Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and American Electric Power (AEP), Michael shares his thoughts on why significant change is necessary if we are to create an intelligent Smart Grid infrastructure.
Q1. How has the energy and utilities industry changed in terms of security measures? Did the Stuxnet virus and its successors drive this?
M.A.: Interestingly enough, I don’t believe the Stuxnet worm or any other notorious threat spurred the need for change. Instead, I see the shift being associated with the acceleration of connected digital technology. Computer and communication technology, smart meters, for example, is becoming an integral part of generating, transmitting, and delivering power, and as a result, we’re seeing a significant need not just for improved cybersecurity measures, but a new, more sophisticated approach to business management. Our current defense and protection models are not sufficient against highly structured and resourced cyber adversaries, so utilities should act quickly to develop and apply their greatest resource in this contest: the professionals who work to defend, operate, and protect our critical systems and infrastructure.
By Ricardo Klatovsky, Vice President Energy & Utilities Europe IOT, IBM
In January 2008 the European Commission announced the “20-20-20” plan, a pledge to cut energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020. To help drive this initiative, they also set a mandate for all participating countries to upgrade 100 percent of electric meters to smart meters by 2022 (80% by 2020).
Yes, this plan sparked excitement and many European countries saw this as an opportunity to finally reduce energy demand and drive economic growth. Now that the initial excitement has died down slightly, we can clearly see the hurdles and are now realizing that there are many factors for success.
IBM, together with the general public, is helping academic researchers make advances in energy technologies.
The company’s most recent Corporate Responsibility Report, now available, details not only the company’s own environmental stewardship, but discusses projects such as The Clean Energy Project at Harvard University, which is seeking novel, organic molecules that can underpin cheaper and more efficient solar cells.
IBM’s World Community Grid, which provides scientists with free computing power harvested from the idle PCs of volunteers, has enabled Harvard to discover a new compound for solar cells that might one day be painted inexpensively and easily on windows and roofs. The Harvard team is using World Community Grid to automate and accelerate the screening 3.5 million molecules — chemistry’s biggest set of quantum calculations ever.
IBM believes that collaboration with academia, government, private enterprise and the general public is the key to better environmental research — and a Smarter Planet.
Below is a video that outlines the latest developments as part of The Clean Energy Project.
Some transformations can affect a person, a team, clients, and sometimes even reach a continent. Global Energy & Utilities Industry Leader, Michael Valocchi’s journey as a consultant has taken him through all of this and more.
Last year, Michael joined a group to revitalize IBM’s strategy in Africa which included examining how dozens of African countries can be transformed – infusing intelligence into government, bank, communications, energy processes. The team was steeped into African cultures, speaking and listening to African leaders about their critical challenges. Continue Reading »
New York City may seem an unlikely hot spot for solar energy, but think again. Consider the fact that there are 20 million square feet of usable solar farm space on top of the city’s 1,100 public school roofs alone–enough to generate 170,000 megawatts of electricity. So its no wonder that city government and business leaders are taking solar seriously.
Market forces are cooperating. Prices for solar panels are plummeting. But there remain some major impediments to solar adoption. All things considered, it’s still more expensive than traditional energy sources.
That’s where data analytics comes in. As part of the SMART NY, IBM is working with CUNY Ventures, a for-profit offshoot of the City University of New York, to create a system for gathering and analyzing information about the entire solar ecosystem within the city. The goal is to bring down the cost of installing solar. “We’re looking to make solar competitive with other sources. We need to mainstream this technology to make it easy to adopt,” says Tria Case, CUNY’s director of sustainability and coordinator of SMART NY.
By Clay Luthy, Global Distributed Energy Resource Leader, Energy & Utilities Industry, IBM
With gas prices hovering at $4.15 per gallon where I live, the talk of electric vehicles (EVs) has increased with vigor. More of my neighbors and friends are toying with the idea of making the switch – much of their reluctance though stems from the fear of inconvenience – will I find a charging station as easily as a gas pump, how will this impact my energy bill, how far can I go on a single charge? These consumer concerns are driving new innovations – uniting forward thinking players to perfect and deploy a smarter EV driving experience.