Tag: energy

Digital Supply Chain – Women in Supply Chain a chat with @circular_nomad and @supplychnqueen

As well as running the Digital Supply Chain podcast, and the Industry 4.0 themed series of podcasts, I decided to also spin up a new series – themed around the topic of Women in Supply Chain. This series will strive to highlight the stories of women leaders in Supply Chain to attempt to address the current imbalance in their representation on panels, podcasts, etc.

Kicking off this series, I invited Sheri Hinesh (@supplychnqueen on Twitter), and Deborah Dull (@circular_nomad on Twitter) to join me for the inaugural podcast, as they have their own very successful Supply Chain podcast Supply Chain Revolution.

We had an awesome conversation covering topics as diverse as the impact of digital goods, the transition of our energy systems to clean energy, sustainable supply chains and the circular economy.

Listen to the podcast using the player above ☝🏻, and/or see the full transcript below 👇🏻:

Sheri Hinesh [00:00:00] And when you think about sustainability through the lens of supply chain and even digital, 50 to 80 percent of the revenue spend happens in supply chain. And so, do, up to 85 percent of the environmental impacts, social impacts of supply chain. so, who better then than us as supply chain practitioners who have that end-to-end interconnected view of the world of business, of the communities where we operate to really do something epic?

Tom Raftery [00:00:32] Good morning. Good afternoon, or good evening wherever you are in the world. This is the Digital Supply Chain podcast, and I am your host Tom Raftery

Tom Raftery [00:00:41] Hi, everyone, welcome to the Digital Supply Chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery. This is the first of a new series that we’re going to run on Women in supply chain. And with me, I have two of the highest profile women in supply chain today, Deborah and Sherri. Deborah and Sherri, would you like to introduce yourselves?

Deborah Dull [00:00:59] Hello, I’m Deborah Dull. Thanks, Tom, for having us on. The most important supply chain related introduction about me is that I have a deep love for inventory.

Tom Raftery [00:01:12] Fascinating, fascinating, and that laugh there is from Sherri, Sherri, would you like to introduce yourself?

Sheri Hinesh [00:01:17] Hello, world digital supply chain, folks. My name is Sherri Hinish, and my vision is to change the world through sustainable supply chain, evangelizing the SDGs and making the world a better place. The world that we share. I’m also affectionately called the Supply Chain Queen. And I have a podcast with Deborah called The Supply Chain Revolution, where we share provocative points of view that challenge paradigms for progress, say it three times.

Tom Raftery [00:01:50] so, Sherri for anyone who is unfamiliar because this is a digital supply chain podcast, not a sustainability podcast, so, people might not be aware. What are the SDGs?

Sheri Hinesh [00:02:04] Sure, so, the SDGs are a framework where we can achieve as the human race can achieve economic and social and environmental prosperity in the world that we share. And with everything happening right now with Covid-19. This is really important for us to understand that we’re all connected. And the SDGs are 17 interconnected goals that would help us to achieve a better world by 2030. so, this is really about the decade of action. How can we encourage a world that has no hunger, where we have economic growth and prosperities in the community where we operate, that supply chain touches? Responsible consumption, responsible production, where we protect life below water and life on land. And it’s really a beautiful vision. I’ve devoted my life to really sharing this picture and framework of a better world, that’s super tangible that people can connect to and that we can really mobilize each other in a meaningful way in the world we share. We have to get there. We have to get in the canoe. Deborah and I always talk about this like get in the canoe. We can do it and we need inspiration right now more than ever Tom.

Tom Raftery [00:03:30] No, I get that completely, I’m a former sustainability analyst for seven years or so, before I joined SAP, so, you know, you’re completely speaking my lingo here. But tell me, I mean, maybe, maybe. Deborah, jump in here. What does sustainability have to do with supply chain?

Deborah Dull [00:03:46] Great question. so, one of the topics that I love most, which is related to but different than sustainability, is the idea of a circular economy. And I’ll explain what that is briefly. But the answer to your question is that the way the world operates is through supply chains. so, every supply chain manager impacts the planet and impacts sustainability. And when you talk about financial sustainability, environmental sustainability, social sustainability, the choices we all make in our day to day impact that where we buy, how we buy, how we manage our suppliers, do we make bridges or do we hold people negatively accountable, for example? All comes back to the human connection that Sherri talked about, certainly. And when we talk about the concept of a circular economy, I think supply chains are uniquely positioned to really catapult the businesses and organizations that we support. And what I mean by that is if we look at the way the world works today, we take an item from the planet. We make something very efficiently, we use it. And then typically that item gets thrown away. And there’s a new economic model that says, hold on a second. All those items we’re throwing away, there’s actually more money to be had. We could squeeze more out of those materials and everybody makes more money. And so, if we think about the way to circulate and loop all of these materials and resources, even like heat or organics or plastics or metals, it’ll come down to supply chains, ability to find, circulate, move it, track it, bring it back. Is it socially responsible? Is it safe for human consumption? And I can’t think of a discipline more impacted than supply chain. And the flip side, who can impact more than supply chain can? We certainly have to work across material scientists and economists and those who design these systems. But if we look at the US workforce alone, 37 percent of jobs are supply chain related. And so, we have this massive cohort. And given that we’re such a new field, I think we haven’t really been considered like that at a global scale. And these days, though, it’s hard to read the news or turn on the radio without hearing the word supply chain every five minutes, which if I take my rose coloured glasses on here, I see it’s just a tremendous step forward for our field.

Sheri Hinesh [00:06:14] And Deborah, you make a great point. That supply chain is truly the conduit. And when you think about sustainability through the lens of supply chain and even digital, 50 to 80 percent of the revenue spend happens in supply chain. And so, do up to 85 percent of the environmental impacts, social impacts of supply chain. so, who better then than us as supply chain practitioners who have that end-to-end interconnected view of the world of business, of the communities where we operate to really do something epic? In the next wave in the supply chain revolution. This is this is our purpose right now, so, we’re super excited.

Deborah Dull [00:06:58] If think about Tom, if we think about the impacts of digital digital supply chain. so, actually, fun fact. I wrote my master’s thesis on the digital supply chain. But at the time this was *mumbles* years ago, it was actually about digital goods. so, I talked to Amazon, the Kindle team, I talked to the Netflix team. I talked to Sony. And so, when they were moving digital goods around the world. And the reason why this is so, important is the cloud is a real physical place that’s supported by real physical supply chains. And so, as we who are in software make decisions about product or as we as consumers make decisions about how many copies of our vacation photos we keep. That has a physical impact in the cloud. And if we make choices, that requires twice as much storage space. That’s twice as many servers, twice as many spare parts, twice as many supply chains, twice as many power requirements, twice as many mechanics engineers to repair. And they’re going to be driving there. so, you duplicate the whole thing. The other interesting factor is how much energy A.I. takes in chugging through their algorithms. It’s something like 30 percent of the world’s power right now is being taken just to help AI think. And these are elements that I don’t think are highlighted enough but relate very much to digital supply chain. Regardless of the way you define digital supply chain, whether they’re digital goods or the digital backbone that supports the physical supply chain.

Sheri Hinesh [00:08:36] You know what’s crazy, so, right now, a lot of people are talking about this pivot to virtual and how we connect digitally and how the CO2 impacts. And I know, Tom, this is right up your alley because you post a lot about climate change. And I saw a quick and dirty study from IBM, and I think it was Jeremy Waite that positioned that the pivot to Virtual actually has the same impact as people driving every day. so, when we start to think about digital supply chain in the world, we share digital waste. And are we really being as lean and effective in this new way of working? Where’s the opportunity? so, I would I would love to hear your point of view, Tom, around that. What are you hearing and seeing?

Tom Raftery [00:09:23] so, I missed that post and I would have assumed that working virtually working from home, for example, like all of us are now thanks to Covid-19, would have had a lower environmental impact. But you’re saying that Jeremy’s post said that, no, it’s similar because the technologies we’re using require large amounts of technology which are carbon intensive?

Sheri Hinesh [00:09:51] Yet our energy grids are still dirty and highly reliant on fossil fuels. so, depending on where you are in the country with your energy mix, you still have this very comparable impact. so, I thought it was a really, you know, in terms of education, I think this is really the pulse here. And the opportunity is we need to accelerate the transition to renewables. And if we can do that, if we can do that, you know. What might that look like?

Tom Raftery [00:10:23] The cool the cool thing is that I’ve done a lot of work on this. The cool thing is, speaking of renewables, that the transition to those is happening not fast enough, but it is happening. And it’s happening not because people are suddenly turning into tree huggers. It’s actually happening because the renewables are a) cheaper to roll over than any fossil fuel alternative and b) faster to roll out. There’s a new offshore wind park being built in the UK on the Dogger Bank. It’s 3.6 gigawatts. That’s three and a half nuclear power plants worth of wind, offshore wind, and it’s being built in two years from start to finish. There is an equivalent. There’s an equivalent called Hinkley C in the UK again, Hinkley C is a nuclear power plant. It’s 3.5 gigawatts. so, comparable power output. It’s going to take 10 to 15 years to build it out. Whereas the wind park the offshore wind 2 years. so, right there and you know, nuclear has a place. I know some people are against it. It’s a polarizing generation, but it is carbon free, essentially, once you’ve built the nuclear plant, it’s carbon free. But it doesn’t scale. It does not scale. Renewables scale massively. There’s. Because, again, down to economics. There is a solar farm being financed right now to be built in the north of Australia. It’s called Five B. I think if I remember correctly, it’s being it’s being financed by, amongst others, Mike Cannon-Brookes from Jive. And it’s going to be ten gigawatts, 10 gigawatts, 10 nuclear power plants worth of solar with 22 gigawatt hours of storage. so, 22 nuclear power plants worth of storage in the Northern Territory in Australia. They’re going to draw a big cable off to the right to power the city of Darwin. And they’re going to draw an even longer cable north three and a half thousand kilometers to power the city of Singapore. And again, it’s down to economics. It’s because it’s the cheapest way to do it. Australia has vast, vast, vast tracts of unused desert which can be used for these kinds of projects, which can be used for turning Australia into a hydrogen economy. You know, they can just put a massive mass of solar plants, generate as much hydrogen as possible and sell the hydrogen off into the global markets for electricity generation or for transportation.

Deborah Dull [00:13:07] It’s amazing. I’m so, glad you brought that example up, Tom. And just to reiterate the brilliance and excitement around circular models. One of the tenets is a shift to renewable sources of energy. And, you know, there’s two questions to ask yourself on. If a model is circular or if it just falls under CSR, and that’s is it making you more money? You can go faster, and you could be cheaper if you’re looking at something like a circular business model and in supply chain. I don’t know how many more levers we have left to pull to get faster, cheaper. We’re pretty fast and we’re pretty cheap, free in most cases or nobody’s paying for it at least. We have a cost. so, we have to start thinking of other levers to pull to add additional value back to organisations we support. And so, the examples you’re giving are brilliant because we’re going faster, it’s cheaper. And then if we think about, let’s say, a spare part to support one of these farms that’s going in, we could start from scratch, start from the metal, from the earth. But that takes more time and it’s going to cost you more if you can refurbish and use B channel parts or even your own parts refurbishing or shocking, I see a world where all similar parts will be refurbished and shared and within a single industry it’s going to be much, much faster and it can be much, much cheaper because you’re not starting from virgin raw materials anymore. so, I think it’s a fascinating model. And the biggest message to get through this is you can make more money as a company. And it just so, happens that it’s also great for the planet. so, it helps to span this gap of the sustainability drive that we all know needs to happen. And the sheer economics of running an economy that we’re all becoming very aware of these days and I think is just a lovely example. so, thanks for sharing.

Tom Raftery [00:15:03] Yeah. And you mentioned something earlier, Deborah. You were I mean, you used the expression that a lot of people use of “throwing things away”. And I remember, I can’t remember when it was or where it was, but I remember reading some point somebody saying that “There is no away”. Away is not a place. It doesn’t exist, you know? You know, so, throwing things away doesn’t make sense. It is not a thing.

Deborah Dull [00:15:30] You are just moving it to someplace else. Yeah, exactly. I actually think in the next… After we mine the ocean for plastic and let’s not be mistaken, that’s exactly what companies are doing now. We are we are now mining the ocean. We will move to landfills. I’m guessing in the next 10 years because we are running out. We’re running out of gold. We’re running up copper. It is still on the surface of the planet. To your point, unless cities are burning and a lot of people say, oh, cool, you’re burning garbage to create energy. But that’s actually not great because you’re losing all the value in the material. So, yes, you’re getting a short-term boost of energy. But actually, in reality, that’s the closest thing to “away” that we have is to burn something and you can no longer get it back again. so, much better is to find a way to retain the value of that item and reuse it as many times as you can.

Sheri Hinesh [00:16:21] Yeah. What we’re what we’re talking about here in describing is really this shift where supply chains who have traditionally been viewed as maybe transactional. And this cost improvement, you know, riddle it down to as efficient as possible. They’re really transitioning to an innovative catalyst that is a strategic partner at the table. And in the future of work. In the future of business. Competitiveness will be defined how your supply chain can execute and innovate. And that’s where we really believe that that’s where the future’s heading. All of the things that are described in in circular economy and sustainability. Yes, you can do well and do good, but there is a business case to be made for why. How you connect people is equally as important when you think about purpose, economy and experience economy. People want to show up at work and not leave their values at the door and be a part of something that’s truly transformation on EPIC. And this is the opportunity that supply chains have because we are so, in the end and we are a tapestry of different professionals. You know, when you when you say supply chain, what does that even mean anymore? It could mean data science. It could mean sourcing and procurement. It could mean your own distribution. Logistics. It could mean inventory. Deborah loves inventory. If you ever meet Deborah Tom face to face and bring up inventory, make sure you have a stiff pour of whisky because she will talk to you for hours.

Deborah Dull [00:18:03] Digital inventory is also super interesting. I had a whole section in my thesis on it. Punch line. It basically comes down to master data, which is also a very interesting topic. People roll their eyes, but it’s not, so. It’s often considered the inventory of a digital digital goods supply chain. If you’re moving around digital goods, it’s your master data and that the way you manage your master data is similar to managing inventory and you can use a lot of the same principles. Super fascinating. I love this stuff. That was not even a whole stiff pour Sherri. so, that was like half a finger.

Tom Raftery [00:18:42] I had no whisky ready. Jeez, Deborah, come on. You could’ve warned me.

Deborah Dull [00:18:46] I know next time that’ll be a different one. We do something called drink and learns on our podcast and we invite you to come to a drink and learn where we drink and learn. And it’s really super fun. And you’re you’re open. You’re openly invited Tom anytime.

Tom Raftery [00:19:00] I appreciate it. Thank you. I have listened to your podcast, so, I’m aware of some of these things. Thank you. But for people for people who haven’t listened. This is a good learning experience. And I’ll put a link to your podcast in the show notes as well. Just in case, you know, people are not aware of, but they can follow through and subscribe and do subscribe folks like and do subscribe to this one, too. Just just in case you’re not already subscribed. We’re coming towards the 20-minute mark. We’re at 18.50, right now. Is there any final thing you want to say to people who, you know, have been listening so, far who’ve made it this far into the podcast? Any last messages you want to leave with them?

Deborah Dull [00:19:36] Absolutely. Look. OK. You’re pointing at me, so, we’re all. And we’re all we can see each other right now. so, my final words are, look. There’s enough bad news happening in the world. We are all probably indoors for something going on two to four weeks depending on where you are in the world. And there is another way to connect with each other. One use of this digital technology that, yes, is using energy and a server somewhere in the world is that you can find a new community. We have something that we call the supply chain rebel who really describes if you feel different than those around you. If you feel like you’re pushing back, if you feel like perhaps you don’t have a community connect to. We are your community. And whether you are feeling too old, too young, not experienced enough, too edgy, too soft, whatever the too is that you’re feeling in your surroundings where your people. so, do come join together with us. We have a great time and we really look forward to connecting with you all.

Sheri Hinesh [00:20:42] Yes. Thank you, sir. Thank you so, much, Tom, for inviting us. The disruptors, the Rebels. And in final message, like Deborah said, find us supplychainrevolution.com. I have admired Tom’s work and his point of view for many years. And I salute you and your fabulous swagger. I love the hat. I love your brand. So, we’re we’re just really thrilled to find others. And I think right now the the opportunity is there are others out here like you and we can unite, especially across digital platforms, social platforms and really change the world. I think that sometimes people forget the impact that you can have in the world we share. And that’s really this message that we would hope you walk away from, that you can change the world.

Tom Raftery [00:21:36] Super, super, Sherri. Deborah, thanks a million for joining me on the show today.

Deborah Dull [00:21:43] Thanks, Tom.

Sheri Hinesh [00:21:43] Thank you.

Tom Raftery [00:21:46] OK, we’ve come to the end of the show. Thanks, everyone, for listening. If you’d like to know more about digital supply chains, head on over to SAP.com/digitalsupplychain or simply drop me an email to Tom Dot Raftery at SAP dot com. If you’d like to show, please don’t forget to subscribe to it in your podcast application to get new episodes right away as soon as they’re published. And also, please don’t forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.

 

And if you want to know more about any of SAP’s Digital Supply Chain solutions, head on over to www.sap.com/digitalsupplychain and if you liked this show, please don’t forget to rate and/or review it. It makes a big difference to help new people discover it. Thanks.

 

Three Industries Where Technology Is Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

 

The science is in. We need to significantly reduce our carbon emissions to limit the amount of warming our planet undergoes as a consequence of climate change.

The good news is, technology is rising up to meet this challenge. The bad news is it needs to do far more, and do it faster. How is technology helping? Well, if we check out some of the industries with the highest carbon footprint (energy, transportation, and agriculture), we can see some of the massive disruptions that are happening there, and how they are impacting emissions.

1 Energy

The energy sector is undergoing a massive transition globally from a system powered by centralised, thermal generation based often on fossil fuel combustion, to one increasingly powered by decentralised renewable sources. And while it would be great if this was happening for reasons of climate concern, it is, in fact, happening for reasons of economics, which is better because it means it is sustainable in the long term.

Why do I say it is because of economics? Because the cost of wind, solar, and lithium-ion battery storage are falling. Falling fast (due primarily to the experience curve). Since 2012 the cost of wind power has fallen 50%, solar power has fallen 80%, and battery storage has fallen 87%. It is now at the point where unsubsidised, combinations of wind and battery storage, or solar and battery storage are able to beat natural gas on price.

Don’t take my word for it. At the Wolfe Research 2019 Power & Gas Leader’s conference last month (October 2nd, 2019) Jim Robo, Chairman, and CEO of NextEra Energy the biggest and most successful utility in the US said

“We see renewables plus battery storage without incentives being cheaper than natural gas, and cheaper than existing coal and existing nuclear… And that is game-changing”

Then, when you consider the amount of time it takes to deploy a power plant, renewables win again.

IMG_0029

And consequently, the share of new power generation being deployed globally that is renewable is rising rapidly, while the share of new fossil fuel generation is falling fast.

IMG_0030

And it is not just the supply side of the equation that is changing. The demand side is changing rapidly as well.

More and more organisations are demanding that their energy provider only supply clean, renewably sourced electricity. In fact, RE100, “a global corporate leadership initiative bringing together influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity” counts at time of writing (November 2019) 212 of the world’s largest companies (including my own employer SAP) as members. All 212 companies are either sourcing all their electricity from renewable sources or have committed to doing so in the near future. Companies do this because it is good for business. Consumers feel better about purchasing goods if they know they were produced using renewable energy, and employees feel better about working for organisations committed to renewable energy.

 

2 Transportation

So the carbon intensity of electricity, one of the main carbon polluters is falling worldwide on a gCO2/kWh basis. What about one of the other big polluters I mentioned at the start, Transportation. Well, fortunately, electric grids the world over are embracing renewable energy, because transportation is now starting to use electricity as a fuel, instead of dino-juice!

Why is transportation going electric? Three main reasons:

  1. Increasing environmental awareness among consumers
  2. Regulations from regions, countries and local governments and
  3. Economics – the costs to operate an electric vehicle (EV) are significantly less than a fossil fuel one
Nissan Leaf charging
Photo credit Tom Raftery

Greta Thunberg has done an amazing job of raising awareness in younger generations particularly about the dangers of climate change, but even before she burst on the scene, the 2019 regulations governing NEVs (New Energy Vehicles) in China and the 2020 emissions regulations for vehicle manufacturers in the EU (as well as local ordinances by cities restricting access to older, more polluting vehicles and countries on the phase-out date for the sale of Internal Combustion Engined vehicles) meant that vehicle manufacturers have had no option but to get on board with the electrification of cars and increasingly other modes of transport as well.

At a time when global vehicle sales are falling, sales of EVs are taking off.

statistic_id270603_battery-electric-vehicles-in-use---worldwide-2012-2018

Volkswagen, who have had some *ahem* reputational issues recently, have decided to embrace the Winston Churchill mantra of never letting a crisis go to waste, and are going all-in on EVs. They plan to spend €60bn (yes billion with a “b”) by 2024 to switch to electric, hybrid and connected vehicles. They will introduce up to 75 all-electric models, around 60 hybrid vehicles and plan to sell 26 million all-electric vehicles as well as around 6 million hybrid vehicles by 2029.

Perhaps even more tellingly, Daimler recently announced that they are stopping their internal combustion engine development initiatives and focussing instead on electric vehicles. The reason this announcement is so game-changing is that Daimler owns Mercedes Benz and Karl Benz, the founder of Mercedes Benz received the patent for the world’s first production internal combustion engine vehicle in 1886. Now 133 years later Daimler has decided that the era of the internal combustion engine is over, and EVs are the future.

And it is not just cars, motorbikes are also going electric with announcements of electric bikes from all the major manufacturers including Vespa, Yamaha, Honda, all the way up to Harley Davidson.

Buses, trucks (from the large class 8 all the way down to delivery trucks), and refuse collection vehicles are also going electric. This is important not just for reducing their carbon emissions, but also because these vehicles often work primarily in urban centres so converting them from diesel to electric will improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, and significantly reduce the cost of operation for these machines.

FuelUseVehicleCategory

Also, when you take into account the fuel use by categories of vehicle, you can see from the chart above that class 8 trucks, buses, and refuse collection vehicles consume far more fuel than other vehicle categories. Fuel use is of course, not just a good proxy for their potential to pollute, but also for their running costs so the economic case to shift these to electric is very strong. In the case of buses, battery-electric buses cost 20c per mile to operate over their lifetime, whereas diesel buses cost 75c and so, battery-electric buses will dominate the market by the late 2020s.

And it doesn’t stop there. Construction equipment is going electric. Ships are going electric. Even planes are going electric. Global consultancy firm Roland Berger is currently tracking 170 different electric plane initiatives (about 50% are in the urban air taxi space). While the Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet has said that:

easyJet is collaborating with US company Wright Electric to support their goal for short-haul flights to be operated by all-electric planes within 10 years

It is hard to think of a mode of transportation that is not moving towards electric drivetrains. And as we saw above in the section on energy, as our grids are getting cleaner daily, shifting transportation to electricity quickly drops transportation’s carbon footprint too (as well as reducing noise pollution, and cleaning up our air quality).

3 Food Production

Food production is the third industry where technology is about to play a huge part in reducing our carbon footprint. Agriculture globally accounts for about 13 percent of total global emissions. That makes the agricultural sector the world’s second-largest emitter, after the energy sector. And this doesn’t include emissions associated with deforestation to clear land for more agriculture.

However, shifting away from our current practices of food production to one where our plant food is grown in massive indoor vertical farms has the potential to significantly clean up agriculture’s environmental toll.

Indoor vertical farms use 95% less water and 99% less land than conventional farming practices. They use no soil, require no herbicides or pesticides and they can produce food in the middle of cities, thereby reducing drastically the crop’s food miles. When you are producing food so close to the point of consumption, you no longer need to optimise your produce for shelf-life, and you can instead choose to optimise for taste, and/or nutrition.

Then there is the clean meat movement. Clean meat is meat that is produced from either cultivating animal cells (without having to slaughter the animal), or by converting plant protein to take on the taste and consistency of animal protein as companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are doing so successfully.

Our current means of producing plant food and meats are vastly inefficient and have a huge carbon footprint. This won’t scale to feed the population of 9-10 billion inhabitants that we are projected to reach in the coming decades, especially as the middle classes grow in the developing world and their meat consumption expectations grow too.

Converting to a system where we produce plants in massive vertical farms, and then using that plant food to create clean meat solves a lot of the problems associated with agriculture today such as the unconscionable cruelty we visit on the animals we breed for slaughter, the vast amounts of antibiotics that are used in agriculture leading to the development of multi-drug resistant superbugs, and agriculture’s massive carbon footprint.

Zebra
Zebra in Pilansberg reserve – photo credit Tom Raftery

If we return the land we have stolen from nature for agriculture back to the wild we can restore the enormous losses we have seen in recent decades in biodiversity, create a huge new ecotourism industry, and through reforestation sequester from the atmosphere much of the carbon we have emitted in the last century, mitigating the or possibly turning back the worst effects of climate change.

As the United Nations COP25 Climate Change Conference kicks off in Madrid, it is important to remember that although the situation with the climate is indeed dire, there are solutions. We just need to embrace them. Quickly.

This piece was originally posted on my Forbes blog

Technology is moving us to a world where energy is cheaper, smarter, and less carbon intensive

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 11.51.40

The graph above is a graph of electricity demand on the Spanish electricity grid taken from the demand page of the grid management company Red Electrica de España.

The data comes from April 26th this year through to Mar 3rd. The sever small graphs along the bottom are daily demand curves, going from Tuesday April 26th on the left, through to Monday May 3rd on the right. You can see that the demand curves for each day are virtually the same.

Saturday and Sunday are however, obvious due to the lower demand on those days, and if you are wondering why Monday the 3rd looks to be lower than the rest of the weekdays, it is because that Monday was a holiday in Spain.

The large graph on top is a zoomed-in look at the demand on one of those days – Friday April 29th. From that you can see that the demand starts to rise early in the morning with the peak occurring between 8-11am. Demand then falls off until late afternoon when people are cooking their evening meals, peaking around 9pm, and then falling until it starts again the following day.

The pattern varies slightly by day of the week, as well as by season, but overall while it is variable, it is also highly predictable.

Graph of predicted energy demand vs actual demand on Spanish grid on April 29th
Graph of predicted energy demand (Green) vs actual demand (yellow) on Spanish grid on April 29th this year – graph from REE

This can be problematic though when you have high penetrations of variable energy suppliers, such as wind and solar.

Here is the energy supplied to the system by wind, for example on April 29th

Energy supplied by wind on the Spanish grid on April 29th this year
Wind energy on the 29th of April on the Spanish grid

As you can see, it doesn’t map well with the demand, and this is challenging for grid management companies, especially with increasing pressure on them to decarbonise.

That can lead to circumstances where wind power ends up supplying 140% of your demand, as happened in the Netherlands last summer. Fortunately, the Netherlands has good interconnects, and so was able to sell this excess energy to its neighbouring countries. This won’t always be the case though, and will become a more common issue as the penetration of wind and solar increases globally.

 

Obviously, if you can’t manage the supply side of the grid, what about managing the demand – how achievable is that?

Interestingly, this is now becoming a real possibility. Already there are companies who aggregate the demand of large organisations with facilities for reducing demand, if required, and sell that reduced demand to utility companies. This can save the utility from having to build new generation sources to meet the increased demand at times of peak load.

Demand flexibility graph
Demand flexibility

What if this were more widespread?

Looking at the chart above, if we could shift the yellow demand line up during its overnight dip, and then reduce the yellow demand line during the morning and evening, this would make the grid more stable, and allow for the introduction of more variable generators (solar and wind) onto the system, as well as reducing the requirement for expensive ‘peaker plants’.

Sounds great Tom, how to do that?

Well price is always a great motivator. In Germany last week where there was an excess of energy on the system, so pricing went negative, meaning large customers were being paid to use it.

Negative pricing on the German energy market
Graph of negative pricing on the German electricity market

Reduced, or negative pricing is a better option than wind farm curtailment because curtailment lowers the income for the wind farms, making them a less attractive investment for renewables developers, while reduced pricing moves the demand to a more suitable time.

Now, with the advent of the Internet of Things, everything starts to be smart and connected. If our electricity devices can listen for realtime electricity signals from the grid, they can adjust their consumption accordingly.

Of course, not all loads in the home are movable  – not many people will decide to cook their evening meal at 3am just because the wind is blowing and energy is cheap.

However, many loads are eminently movable. Pool pumps, are a good example. And also many loads that have a heating or cooling component associated with them, such as an electric hot water heater. When it is well insulated it doesn’t matter when it heats the water. Similarly for fridges, freezers, ice bank air conditioning, and so on. These are straightforward and affordable forms of energy storage.

Dish washers, washing machines, clothes dryers can also be made to listen to electricity pricing, and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Often, when you put the dish washer on in the evening, you don’t care when it comes on, as long as the dishes are clean and dry when you get up the following morning.

As more of our appliances become connected and smart, this will become the norm. Obviously, for widespread adoption, this kind of behaviour has to be totally automated. If the device owner has to think about it, it won’t happen.

Smart grid appliance

And then there are the real storage options, using batteries. This can be in the form of batteries in electric vehicles using vehicle-to-grid technologies, in-home batteries such as the ones Tesla, and others sell, or reconditioned electric vehicle batteries – a market that is just starting to get going.

So, good news, technology is moving us inexorably to a world where energy is getting cheaper, smarter, and less carbon intensive.

Sign up for my new newsletter here

I started a new newsletter last week.

It is quick and easy to read with 5-6 story links maximum. But the stories which will relate to the topics I regularly research (the Internet of Things, Energy, and CleanTech), will be the most important stories in these areas for that week.

I will be publishing the newsletter every Friday, so you can enjoy the stories, just as we head into (or during) the weekend 🙂

You can check out my first newsletter here.

And if you wish to be included in the weekly mailing, you should sign up for it here.

Finally, if you have any feedback on the newsletter, please don’t hesitate to let me know either in the comments below, or you can email me on tom@tomraftery.com anytime.

Thanks.

More prestigious speaking engagements

I recently received an invitation to address the bi-annual meeting of the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) in Athens.

CEPIS, if you are not familiar with it is

a non-profit organisation seeking to improve and promote a high standard among ICT professionals, in recognition of the impact that ICT has on employment, business and society. CEPIS currently represents 33 member societies in 32 countries across greater Europe. Through its members, who are the professional ICT bodies at national level, CEPIS represents 450,000 ICT professionals

Quite an honour to be asked to address them.

This got me to thinking of all the prestigious talks I’ve given in the last few months.

I addressed the European Commission’s European technology platform for Smart Grids on Energy Digitalisation last November.

DrivingATesla

I addressed the TeslaWorld event in Antwerp last year (see video above). This was a spectacular event with two Tesla Model S cars on either side of the stage, a phenomenal line-up of speakers, and I got to drive a Tesla on the way back to the airport! So that was pretty awesome, and I have to admit to seeing my Prius in a less favourable light when I arrived home 🙁

I gave the opening keynote at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach last September on the topic of The convergence of the Internet of Things and Energy, and I was bowled over by the positive feedback I received afterwards from the attendees.

And I was very honoured to be asked to be the keynote speaker at the EclipseCon event in Toulouse last year.

There were other events I spoke at last year as well (SAP TechEd and ThingMonk off the top of my head).

But with the CEPIS invite, and another I’m not allowed to reveal just yet, 2016 is definitely shaping up to be an even better year for speaking engagements!

 

What do we do in a world where energy is in abundance?

Swanson Effect

The cost of solar power is falling in direct relation to the amount of solar power modules being produced. With no end in sight to this price reduction, we should soon be in a world where energy is in abundance.

Solar PV Installed globally

Moore’s Law, the law that says the number of transistors in computers doubles every two years approximately, has an equivalent in solar power called Swanson’s Law. Swanson’s Law states that the price of solar panels tends to drop 20% for every doubling of cumulative shipped volume. This leads to a positive feedback loop of lower prices meaning more solar pv installed, leading to lower prices, and so on. And consequently, as the price of solar panels drops (see top graph), the amount of installed solar globally has increased exponentially (see chart on right).

This law has held true since 1977, and according to the Economist

technological developments that have been proved in the laboratory but have not yet moved into the factory mean Swanson’s law still has many years to run

This positive feedback loop is manifesting itself in China, where in May of this year the National Development and Reform Commission announced that China would target a more than tripling of its installed solar capacity to 70 gigawatts (GW) by 2017.

While in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet recently approved increasing the country’s solar target fivefold to a goal of reaching 100GW by 2022.

To put those numbers in perspective, according to the International Energy Agency’s Snapshot of Global PV Markets 2014 report, the total amount of solar PV installed globally reached 177GW at the end of 2014.

And it is not just South East Asia, Brazil and the US this week reached a historic climate agreement that will require.

the US to triple its production of wind and solar power and other renewable energies. Brazil will need to double its production of clean energy. The figures do not include hydro power.

And according to GTM Research, by 2020 Europe will install 42GW and account for 31% of the global solar market.

Is this having a significant effect on pricing?

Absolutely it is. The price for installed solar hit another new low at the end of last year when Dubai utility DEWA awarded a contract to Riyadh-based consortium Acwa Power to build and operate a 200MW solar park for a guaranteed purchase price of 5.84US cents per kWh for 25 years.

To fully appreciate the significance of this price, it is necessary to understand that the price of natural gas – which generates 99% of the UAE’s electricity – stands at 9 cents. So, in the United Arab Emirates at least, solar power is currently 65% of the cost of the next cheapest form of electricity production. And its price will continue to decline for the foreseeable future.

So, solar power is cheap (in some cases 65% of the cost of the next nearest competitor), its price is continually dropping, and with 100’s of gigawatts of orders coming into the pipeline, the price reductions may even accelerate.

In this scenario we are headed into a world where solar power rates, for all intents and purposes, approach zero. In that situation, the question becomes, what do we do in a world where energy is in abundance?

Smartphone energy management – at last there is an app for that!

Carat
The World Bank issued a report yesterday showing that the number of mobile phone subscriptions in use worldwide, both pre-paid and post-paid, has now reached over 6 billion.

The report went on to reveal that more than 30 billion mobile applications, or “apps,” were downloaded in 2011 alone – these apps extend the capabilities of phones, for instance to become mobile wallets, navigational aids or price comparison tools. However the apps also have a cost associated with their use – they drain the phone’s battery.

Carat - smartphone energy managament

Some of these apps are energy hogs – they require a lot of energy to run, and so they drain the phone’s battery quickly (maybe they are legitimately using the camera, the GPS radio, and the 3G network simultaneously). Other apps have bugs in them whereby they may not properly close out battery use after a particular function and they continue to drain the battery. Until now, there has been no way to identify which apps were the ones draining your battery’s charge.

I have written a couple of times here before wondering why there was no energy management app for smart phones. Now there is – Carat.

(Cross-posted @ GreenMonk: the blog)

Use open source platforms to find cloud computing’s energy and emissions footprint

 

Dials
Regular GreenMonk readers will be very aware that I am deeply skeptical about claims that Cloud Computing is Green (or even energy efficient). And that I talk about the significant carbon, water and biodiversity effects cloud computing can have.

One of the biggest issues with any claims of Cloud Computing being energy efficient, or Green, is the lack of transparency from the Cloud Computing providers. None of them are publishing any data around the energy consumption, or emissions of their Cloud infrastructure. Without data to back them up, any claims of Cloud computing being efficient are worthless.

Last week, while at the RackSpace EMEA Analyst day, we were given a potted history of OpenStack, RackSpace’s Cloud Computing platform. OpenStack was jointly developed by NASA and RackSpace and they open-sourced it with an Apache License in July 2010.

Anyone can download OpenStack and use it to create and host Cloud Computing solutions. Prominent OpenStack users include NASA, RackSpace (not surprisingly), AT&T, Deutsche Telecom, HP and IBM.

What has this got to do with Cloud Computing and energy efficiency I hear you ask?

Well, it occurred to me, during the analyst day, that because OpenStack is open source, anyone can fork it and write a version with built-in energy and emissions reporting. What would be really cool is, if this functionality, having been written, became a part of the core distribution – then anyone deploying OpenStack, would have this functionality by default…

SAP’s 2011 Sustainability Report

SAP 2011 Sustainability Report
SAP launched its 2011 Sustainability Report this week and in terms of aesthetics and social sharing, this is one of the best Sustainability Reports I have seen to-date.

The site contains many videos with SAP staff – including one from co-CEO’s Jim Hagemann Snabe & Bill McDermott which is featured prominently on the home page. Interestingly there are also several customer reference videos as well with the customers vouching for how SAP have helped them become more sustainable.

There are also many blog posts and interesting stories from SAP employees talking about everything from Materiality, through to Electric Vehicles.

There is a whole section in the report dedicated to how SAP Empowers its customers. It includes customer video testimonials, white papers and some very impressive top line figures for savings (“5.7 million tons of estimated carbon reductions, saving $550 million in energy costs”). However the methodology for producing these data is not gone into in any detail in this section. I contacted SAP to voice my concerns about this and they assured me that in the next couple of weeks the report will be updated to include the methodologies, and the story around producing this innovative section of the report.

SAP's progress on sustainability

As you’d expect from SAP, there’s also a lot of data in the report on how they are doing on their journey to sustainability and it’s mostly positive results. Almost all of their numbers are headed in the right direction. Unfortunately the exceptions to this are in the environmental area with increases in Data Centre Energy, Total Energy consumed and SAP’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint.

On the data centre energy front, the energy increase is both in real terms, and in kWh per employee. This is likely due to SAP increasingly hosting customers data and applications through their cloud offerings. What might be interesting here would be to see a kWh per cloud customer metric, or similar. Also, one would suspect that there should be a net reduction in energy consumption for that application, if it is replacing a customer’s pre-existing on-premises application. There could be some interesting data to mine there around energy wins.

On the Total Energy Consumed page you see that energy consumption has increased from 843GWh in 2010 to 860GWh in 2011. In the report it attributes this to growth in the business (SAP bought SucessFactors during this period) but the lack of a kWh per Employee metric on this page makes this hard to verify.

On the Greenhouse Gas page, we again see an increase in emissions from the 453kTons 2010 figure to 490kTons in 2011. On this page, it is possible to see a By Employee figure and here too we see an increase in emissions from 8.7 tons per employee in 2010 to 9.0 tons in 2011. However, when we look at the emissions by € revenue, we see a fall, from 36.3g/€ in 2010 to 34.4g/€ in 2011. 2011 was a good year for SAP, from a revenue perspective, it would appear…

Smartphone energy management – when will there be an app for that?

Mobile energy saving app?
I wrote a post last week about mobile endpoint management applications and their potential to extend smartphone battery life. It seems it was a prescient piece given the emergence this week of a study from Purdue University and Microsoft Research showing how energy is used by some smartphone applications [PDF].

The study indicates that many free, ad-supported applications expend most of their energy on serving the ads, as opposed to on the application itself. As an example, the core part of the free version of Angry Birds on Android uses only 18% of the total app energy. Most of the rest of the energy is used in gathering location, and handset details for upload to the ad server, downloading the ad, and the 3G tail.

This behaviour was similar in other free apps, such as Free Chess, NYTimes which were tested on Android and an energy bug found in Facebook causing the app to drain power even after termination, was confirmed fixed in the next version released (v1.3.1).

The researchers also performed this testing on Windows Mobile 6.5 but in the published paper, only the Android results are discussed.

Inmobi’s Terence Egan pushed back against some of the findings noting that

In one case, the researchers only looked at the first 33 seconds of usage when playing a chess game.

Naturally, at start up, an app will open communications to download an ad. Once the ad has been received, the app shouldn’t poll for another ad for some time.

Hver the time it take to play a game of chess (the computer usually beats me in 10 minutes) a few ad calls are dwarfed by the energy consumption of the screen, the speakers, and the haptic feedback…