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.
Across North America, drought-stricken farmers are facing historically small harvests, raising concerns about global shortages and increasing food prices. This summer’s drought should be a strong reminder that we have to manage our water resources more carefully.
In many countries, the competition for water between the countryside and cities is intensifying. Farmers face an uphill battle in the competition for water since industry can afford to pay much more than they can, according to the Earth Policy Institute.
This battle over water is likely to intensify. As the world’s levels of CO2 emissions continue to rise, the frequency of extreme weather phenomena such as heat waves is expected to intensify. Heat waves are expected to further strain the world’s water resources, especially in areas where water demand is increasing and water supplies are shrinking. The challenge worldwide is to meet today’s water needs while putting in place innovative strategies to address future requirements.
One of the best ways to promote sustainability is to make consumers aware of the true cost of water.
Traceability has become a hot topic as global companies try to stay ahead of real-time consumer reaction that spreads like wildfire on social media. From fruits and vegetables to pharmaceuticals, traceability systems are being used to track product ingredients, movements and ownership throughout the supply chain to improve products and services.
This was a major topic in February at the first meeting of the Innovations for Environmental Sustainability Council, which the IBM formed with the World Environment Center and companies including Boeing, CH2M Hill, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, F. Hoffman-La Roche, General Motors, Ingersoll Rand, Johnson & Johnson and Walt Disney.
We agreed that as advances in technology have made it easier to acquire and analyze information about product development, distribution and use, the issue of traceability has moved front-and-center for business and competitive strategy.
by Steve O’Donnell, Chairman of Greenbang
As the city of London gets ready to host the 2012 Olympics, citizens around the world will witness great examples of sustainability — examples not just confined to big venues in big communities.
Olympic Stadium, the primary venue for the Games’ 17 days, was built with reclaimed granite coping stones and zero-waste packaging for the seating. To make this type of stadium even possible, its construction adhered to the “reduce, reuse and recycle” approach combined with smart IT and city-scale investments. Continue Reading »
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.
When IBM unveiled its Smarter Planet agenda in late 2008, government and business leaders in Poland were intrigued, but the global financial crisis made it difficult for them to act on their positive impulses. Today, in spite of lingering concerns about the situation in Western Europe, the Smarter Planet concepts are starting to gain traction–especially with government leaders.
The Polish central government is launching an e-health initiative, a new citizen ID program and a new electronic tax filing system. “Smart is all about how to make the citizen’s life easier, safer and more ecologically sustainable,” says Anna Sienko, IBM’s general manager for Poland and the Baltic countries.
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.
In the past few years, digital technologies have revolutionized everything from the way we work to the way we educate, inform and entertain ourselves. In fact, millions of engaged citizens are using the Web to connect and collaborate around shared concerns and opportunities in their communities and in international forums and institutions.
Now, as Canada readies itself to host the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT2012) in Montreal this October, we have a unique opportunity to mobilize large numbers of connected citizens to participate in a global, online conversation designed to elicit new ideas and innovations that could help address some of the world’s most urgent challenges.
By Wayne Balta
IBM Vice-President for Corporate Environmental Affairs
Ever since then-CEO Thomas J. Watson Jr. made environmental stewardship a company-wide priority in 1971, IBM has been in the vanguard among corporations when it comes to protecting the natural environment. And, with more than 425,000 employees in 170 countries, we can move the needle on sustainability.
But in addition to large companies like IBM, the world’s millions of small and medium-size businesses can also collectively accomplish quite a bit. More than 99% of all businesses fall within the SME category—which is typically defined as organizations with fewer than 500 employees. So, based on sheer scale alone, the world’s SMEs are not only the primary source of innovation and economic growth; they’re also the key to saving the planet.
Tonight IBM will receive the World Environment Center’s Gold Medal, so this week we asked students at the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise to share their views on sustainability (we’ve included a video to show what IBM is doing to make the world smarter). Here’s the final post in the series, from Lawrence Han:
People complain that my generation’s “addiction” to technology will lead us down the path of unsustainability. I think they are wrong. While it is true that my generation, Gen Y (those born after 1980) is the quickest demographic to adopt new computing trends, the advances that we are adopting—mobile, cloud, big data—are intrinsically greener. So, as white-collar Baby Boomers step away from their life in front of a computer, and the new wave of Gen Y workers step forward to take their place, the computing landscape will move to a more energy efficient and sustainable future.
Consider that a decade ago, Baby Boomer households joined the Internet Revolution by purchasing hulking desktop computers. But over the past decade we have seen a shift with laptops overtaking the personal computing market. And that means less energy use—a typical laptop uses 45 watts while your typical energy guzzling desktop computer uses a whopping 100 to 300 watts of electricity.