Tag Archives: Energy Efficiency

Government to invest £1bn in carbon capture and storage technology

By David Bicknell

The government is to commit more than £1bn of public funds to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology with the prospect of generating an industry with 100,000 jobs.

It follows  the publication of plans yesterday to create a government-sponsored competition to design the first workable demonstration project.

CCS uses technology to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and store it permanently underground. Such a move, it is said, will help meet climate change targets.

The government has also published the first UK CCS Roadmap which it says sets out the steps that the Government is taking to develop a new world-leading CCS industry in the 2020s. The Roadmap includes:

  • The competition, the ‘CCS Commercialisation Programme’, to drive down costs by supporting practical experience in the design, construction and operation of commercial scale CCS with £1bn capital funding, and additional support, subject to affordability, through low carbon Contracts for Difference;
  • £125m funding for Research and Development, including a new £13m UK CCS Research Centre;
  • Planned long term Contracts for Difference through Electricity Market Reforms to drive investment in commercial scale CCS in the 2020s and beyond;
  • Commitments to working with industry to address other important areas including developing skills and the supply chain, storage and assisting the development of CCS infrastructure

Here is the Guardian’s view on the story

UK CCS Commercialisation Programmme

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Department of Energy & Climate Change announces new consultation on CRC

By David Bicknell

In a press release today, the Department of Energy & Climate Change has announced a consultation on simplifying the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme.

DECC says that participants will see their administrative costs cut by almost two-thirds, equating to around £330 million of savings up to 2030.

CRC is a mandatory UK-wide trading  scheme covering large business and public sector organisation, who produce 12% of UK carbon emissions. It requires businesses to report on and pay a tax on energy used, and ranks businesses in a performance league table which provides a further reputational incentive to improve their energy efficiency.

Following Chancellor George Osborne’s criticism of the scheme’s complexity in last week’s Budget, DECC now says businesses will now have the opportunity to comment on Government’s proposals. 

The simplified package proposed is aimed at retaining the energy-saving and reputational benefits of the CRC, whilst reducing the bureaucracy of taking part.

Secretary of State Ed Davey said:

“We have listened to businesses’ concerns about the CRC and have set out proposals to radically cut down on ‘red tape’ to save businesses money. The benefits of the scheme are clear though. It will deliver substantial carbon savings helping us to meet carbon budgets, and it encourages businesses to take action to improve their energy efficiency”.

DECC says the simplified package will include:

  • A shortening of the CRC qualification process.
  • Reducing the number of fuels covered by CRC from 29 to 4.
  • Reducing the amount of reporting required by businesses.
  • Reducing the length of time participants will have to keep records.
  • Removing the requirement on facilities covered by Climate Change Agreement or EU Emissions Trading System installations to purchase CRC allowances. 
  • Adopting new emissions factors for the CRC which will align it with Greenhouse Gas reporting processes.
  • Removing the detailed metrics of the Performance League Table from legislation and placing them in government guidance.

The formal consultation will run for twelve weeks, with the Government planning to amend the legislation for CRC by April 2013.

Consultation on a simplified CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme

Osborne’s Budget signals possible end of Carbon Reduction Commitment energy scheme

By David Bicknell

George Osborne’s Budget earlier today has raised significant question marks over the future of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) energy efficiency scheme.

Osborne said this, “Environmentally sustainable has to be fiscally sustainable too. The Carbon Reduction Commitment was established by the previous Government. It is cumbersome, bureaucratic and imposes unnecessary cost on business. So we will seek major savings in the administrative cost of the Commitment for business. If those cannot be found, I will bring forward proposals this autumn to replace the revenues with an alternative environmental tax.”

It will be interesting to know how those ‘major savings’ in the administrative cost might be achieved. That sounds like a softening up for the end of CRC to me.

Related Links

The Guardian: Green ‘stealth tax’ attacked by business groups

How a Dutch SME is helping make software energy efficient

By David Bicknell

It may take a little time, but in the future organisations will be able to track the energy efficiency of their software and know how much it is costing them to run.

It follows an idea developed by a Dutch SME that specialises in the quality of software. Amsterdam-based Software Improvement Group (SIG) has partnered with the nearby Hogeschool van Amsterdam (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences)  to create the Software Energy Footprint Lab (SEFLab).

SEFLab is now setting out to establish how the quality of organisations’ software code affects their energy consumption. The work will couple SIG’s knowledge and expertise in software monitoring  with the enthusiasm and technical expertise of the local university students.

Campaign4Change asked Dr Joost Visser, SIG’s Head of Research how it is going about tackling the energy efficiency of software, and what elements of the problem it needs to examine.

Joost Visser: There are basically two types of this problem that you can break this down and look into. One is across the software lifecycle. So just as with software defects where the later you find them the more expensive they are, so with energy efficiency, if you try to optimise your software once it’s already in production, you may have to make an explicit investment that might not provide an adequate payback. But if you already know what requirements you need to keep in mind at the design stage for energy efficiency, then, for example, you might actually choose a different communication protocol which can improve your efficiency. At each of the development process, there are things to do: in requirements, in the coding and in the testing.

Another issue is the hierarchical level of software. The thing you might see as the consumer is the application. But actually that’s not the first level that impacts energy efficiency. The first level is the user themselves. In a car, the person that is actually touching the accelerator has a lot of influence on how much fuel you would use. To reduce your fuel usage, you may need to change your (driving) behaviour. The same thing applies with users of software. If they know what the consequences are of clicking here and searching there, they might behave slightly differently and it might have an impact on energy efficiency. If you give people feedback, they will behave differently.

C4C: What sort of user feedback have you had?

JV: We did a survey around 9 months ago where we asked a lot of users about these types of things and the overwhelming conclusion of that survey was that, ‘Yes, we would like to change our behaviour but at the moment we have nothing to go on. We don’t know how to make that change.’

There is a premium on green products. People want to be green – but they have to be able to make a meaningful choice. There are various elements to consider. First there is the application layer. Then we have the various components from which the software application is built: a database; a runtime environment framework, and Java as a virtual machine. Then underneath there’s the operating system. Microsoft has made a big effort in its operating system to take energy efficiency into account but I think there are many more steps to be made there. Then there is communication. You have to think about your mobile device uses radio to communicate when you’re browsing. You may have to make an explicit switch to a Wi-Fi network which might be more energy efficient. Is it more energy efficient than 3G? We don’t know yet. That is one of the things we’re going to find out.

C4C: One of the areas that many organisations are talking about is the impact of consumerisation and the use of touch devices creating a new user interface that organisations’ applications will have to be rewritten for. What does than mean from an energy efficiency perspective?

JV: One of the very very real challenges now is that we want to go to those new devices with mobile strategies but time to market dictates how we think about energy efficiency. So you might choose to do develop once on different devices but on many devices, there’s no accounting for the energy consumption. You might go to HTML5, for instance, but it might consume much more energy than when you create a native application. I think by making the choices visible, we will enable people to choose. We will take away the time-to-market issue and people will be able to say,’ OK, we can have this a couple of weeks later and still make things provably more energy efficient’, which consumers will appreciate.

C4C: Will we get to a stage where the consumer will think about the energy efficiency, or are they really only going to be thinking about the coolness of the product i.e. I want an iPad and I don’t really care what the energy efficiency is?

JV: Let’s be realistic about this. Consumers want to get hold of new things. They’re right – they’re consumers. So the coolness of the device has to incorporate the energy efficiency. It’s a lifestyle product. If you offer that, they’ll want it.

C4C: But in the corporate world previously, the IT department would buy the product. Now the user, the consumer, is buying the product and he or she wants a cool devices and they don’t really know about the energy efficiency side of things.

JV: If you compare it to other types of products, fridges, for instance, suppliers do compete on energy efficiency. They all want to be rated A, and that’s partly to do with regulation and partly to do with the demands of the customer. But an essential thing to make that work is that there is a measurement, a consumable rating, that’s meaningful. And now with software, we are developing the science behind it.

Is it about green hardware? Or is it using an energy efficient battery? Or just using a bigger battery? It gives you as a consumer the incentive to use it.  There is also the recycling of the batteries to be taken into account, of course.

C4C: Going back to the way the user is using the software. If you take the car analogy, ultimately there is a cost for you if you’re not driving efficiently. How do we portray those costs in terms of energy efficiency of software?

JV: Maybe you should get feedback about your consumption, not in terms of the litre of fuel you used, but in terms of euros. You want to make that last step. Similarly in software there is a lot of knowledge about CPU cycles and megabytes. But in the end you want to know what is the calorific value of what you’re doing. And that has to be put into some perspective.

C4C: If you were to take it to the nth degree, would you be able to get an idea of how much electricity or energy you had used in your browsing session?

JV: If you keep all your tabs open, do you as a user know if that has any impact, or is that negligible? If you knew it was consuming energy, maybe you’d take the trouble of closing them because it has value for you. Energy consumption goes further than simply your own device. If you’re browsing, you’re pulling information in, and the server starts doing things for you and data starts being generated. It might be stored, consuming energy, for the next 50 years. And it makes a difference how it gets archived or stored. All of this has to be made simple for the consumer to comprehend. Then there’s the organisational side, those organisations that have bespoke software built for them.

They might be interested in ‘green’ from the idealistic point of view. Their clients are interested too and they want to be socially responsible. But those organisations are also very much interested in the cost aspect. Energy costs are rising and it’s not just costs, but scarcity too. If more work implies more energy, at some point you may not be able to get it as easily as before. Either you will get it back in higher energy costs or it just won’t be there.

C4C: Is there any way you can create a benchmark or figure that talks about how much inefficient software usage can cost?

JV: Not yet. For data centre efficiency, there is the PUE. It has lots of drawbacks as well. But is has had a good impact and made choices more clear. We are working on it. We have some development of KPIs. But it’s hard. There’s a real research challenge here. One reason is the mapping of software applications to hardware. It’s not one to one. We may have one software application running on many pieces of hardware and due to virtualisation and other techniques, we have many applications running on the same hardware. With the hardware you can map how much energy goes through it. But how do you map that to the consumer of the energy i.e. the software? That’s a very difficult puzzle.

Another thing is that we’d all like to have a benchmark. To have a benchmark, you need comparable things. But think about it. You have online payments for a bank versus using a browser. The type of work you do with the software, the user transactions, so to speak, is completely different.  If one consumes a certain amount of energy and the other consumes double that, what does that mean? Does that mean the one that consumes more is worse? Not necessarily. It may simply be doing more work. So we have to develop KPIs that allow meaningful comparison. One suggestion is to how much energy per function point. That sounds good, but actually it’s completely wrong, because a function point is about functional size and how many features you offer.  Yet it doesn’t have anything about the workload in it. You have to involve the workload into the KPI otherwise it cannot work.

Now workload is something that’s completely different between different vendors and operations systems and end users. Comparing an operating system to an end user application will not work. That’s why we’re trying to build these up through the lab.

C4C: You could end up having two years of discussions between vendors over what would be an appropriate standard for energy efficient software, couldn’t you?

JV: The way to make these protracted processes shorter is to have people with lots of initiative who just go for it in their own sphere of influence, and show that it can be done, and create a reality that others can follow. International standardisation processes take a long time, but you shouldn’t wait for it. You should go for it.

Links

Software Energy Footprint Lab

8 ways to make your software more energy efficient

How the Dutch are taking a closer look at the energy efficiency of software

By David Bicknell

I am in Amsterdam to speak with a Dutch SME about its work examining the energy efficiency of software.

The Software Improvement Group (SIG) and the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA) have come together to create the Software Energy Footprint Lab (SEFL).

The lab will enable researchers to examine such questions as:

  • How do different database management systems compare with each other in terms of energy consumption?
  • How do different programing languages/compilers compare in terms of energy consumption?
  • How do asynchronous requests compare to synchronous requests in terms of energy consumption?
  • How do unsigned integer arithmetic operations compare with signed arithmetic operations in terms of energy consumption?
  • How accurate are software energy profiling tools?

The laboratory will have computers rigged with sensors to measure the flow of electric current into each of the computer’s components. Specially crafted programs or generic benchmarks are then run with the sensors reporting on where the current is flowing to and how much of it is flowing to each component.

The relationship, which I’ll learn more about today, builds on the knowledge of electronics from the HvA together with SIG’s work into the technical quality of software which provides insight into the quality of organisations’ software projects, and therefore, the quality of their software suppliers.

Data centre temperatures go up to cut costs and reduce carbon footprints

It’s only a few weeks since the United Nations summit on climate change in Durban at the back end of last year and  I came across this story.

The piece argues that IT managers can save money and reduce their carbon footprint by increasing the temperature in their data centres.

Intel, for example, is reportedly advising its customers to increase the temperature in data centres, arguing that companies can actually save four percent in energy costs for every one degree in centigrade they turn up the heat.

That is because most data centres in Europe run at a temperature of between 19 and 21 degrees centigrade to avoid creating hot spots that might cause equipment to malfunction. The cooling equipment required to maintain that temperature costs around $27 billion a year to run and consumes 1.5 percent of total world power, according to Intel.

Many companies worldwide are now looking at increasing the temperature of their data centres up to 27ºC (80.6ºF), in a move that could help them save costs and reduce their carbon footprint. Facebook has saved over $200,000 a year in energy bills by reprogramming its cooling to run at 81ºF. Microsoft too has saved $250,000 a year by increasing the temperature by just 2-4ºC.

Interesting story – I think there is more to come on this as the year develops though I’d venture to suggest that rightly or wrongly, in today’s austere times, the driver is more likely to be saving costs than reducing the carbon footprint i.e. talk green, mean lean.

8 ways to make your software more energy-efficient

By David Bicknell

I recently came across the Software Improvement Group, a Dutch company specialising in corporate software quality, which has produced some advice on how to make your software applications more energy-efficient. 

Its ‘quick wins’ include the following:

  • Reduce resolution of images and/or send them less frequently
  • Run multiple applications on shared servers
  • Reduce data translation between components
  • Log less
  • Delete historic data
  • Compile interpreted languages
  • Refrain from frivolous features
  • Avoid chatty protocols

The group points out that quick wins do not always apply and are only a first step towards energy efficiency. To create truly energy-efficient software applications requires attention during all phases of the development lifecycle, starting from requirements and design, through coding and testing, and finally on to deployment and operation.

Users do want efficient software

Environment Agency publishes Carbon Reduction Commitment league table

By David Bicknell

The Environment Agency has published the initial league table for the Carbon Reduction Commmitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme.

As the Agency puts it, the Performance League Table (PLT) ranks organisations participating in the CRC on how well they manage their energy efficiency. PLT positions are based on a participant’s changes in energy use against a baseline and not their total emissions. As a result the PLT should motivate organisations to improve their energy efficiency.

The 2010/11 PLT recognises those organisations who have already taken action to monitor and reduce their carbon emissions and is based on information supplied by participating organisations.

The Agency’s website is already under pressure from the number of hits on the site, but the table is available as an Excel file here

UK Roadshow to Showcase Green Technology for Overseas Markets

By David Bicknell

Peterborough will play host on July 5th to a roadshow showcasing solutions in the green IT or ‘greentech’ technology sectors.

The UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) GreenTech Road Show will bring buyers and decision makers from markets including Australia, Bulgaria, China, Hungary, India, Kuwait, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Turkey and UAE into the UK to look at the UK’s capabilities across the spectrum of ‘green’ technologies. The delegates have specific interests in green energy production, energy efficiency, green building technology, cleaner production technologies, waste management and water and wastewater treatment.  

The event will be a regionally focused day dedicated to developing interactions between UK suppliers and the visiting ‘buyers’ and UK Trade & Investment officers.

The morning will offer briefing sessions aimed at UK companies that are relatively new to exports and will offer advice on export services available from UKTI. Advice will be on hand from UKTI regional contacts and Trade & Investment Officers based in overseas embassies, as well as details of how UKTI is promoting the UK’s Low Carbon know-how around the world.

The event, to be held at the Bull Hotel, will also feature ‘Meet the Buyer’ sessions in the afternoon, giving greentech vendors the opportunity to book 1-1 meetings with either the overseas buyers or Trade & Investment Officers. 

Places on the GreenTech Road Show are free of charge. For more information, email garry.poole@uktradeinvest.gov.uk

Grasping the CRC Sustainable Innovation Opportunity

By David Bicknell

I’ve just written a piece for the Guardian Professional Network’s Sustainable Business site, which discusses some recent work by Cambium in producing a report on how both suppliers and organisations can benefit from the Government’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

You can read the article here on the Guardian’s site. And you can find about more about the report from Cambium here.