Why green tech works best as a conversation by Peter Judge
Last month, I got to hang out with a Cleantech/Greentech crowd in London. A little bit more than hang out, in fact. I was chairing a Green in the City debate run by the EcoConnect business network.
The event was in a London accountant’s offices, and was about the “challenges and opportunities for Green IT in the real world” - in other words, sitting at the intersection of green finance and and green tech, trying to figure out how to make things happen.
The panel was good. For the tech side, we had Peter Hopton, veteran low-energy computing inventor and entrepreneur (VeryPC and Iceotope). For the finance angle, we had Jonathan Bryers, of CT Investment Partners, which advises the Carbon Trust on its investment activities.
We had the massively-informed Benjamin Kott, formerly Google’s European Green Energy leader, and now at energy management startup EnergyDeck.
More exciting than that, we had a highly-interested and very interactive audience. I’ve chaired sessions before where the panelists each present their company angle, then when time comes for questions, nothing happens. I’m scratching around for things to ask, and everyone wants the thing to end.
There was none of that at this session. There was no Powerpoint from the panelists; we went straight to audience questions. And they certainly gave us a good workout.
In journalism, I’m too often in a vacuum, fielding buzzwords from vendors, and trying to figure out whether announcements are real or flim-flam. Recently HP has said Net-Zero data centers can generate energy, manage their demand and go off the power grid. Is that real, or just a position paper to hype a role for HP’s analytics in load-shaping?
An evening like this one was well away from vendor announcements and spin. The audience threw so many great questions at us we had a job to keep up. I tried to stay off my soapbox, get as many voices from the audience as possible, and get the questions answered.
Themes emerged. This audience wanted to understand the figures - both the financial opportunity and the electricity bills. They wanted better metrics to scope the actual value of the work done in a data centre, and they wanted regulations that would require and encourage more efficiency and less e-waste. They also wanted ideas to take back to their organisations to explain and promote efficiency.
Several moments stood out, but I’ll pick one. Passing on a question about desktop power management, I trotted out the rule of thumb that PC power management is a quick win, and in most cases can save as much power as modernising your data center.
David Underwood came back with a statistic. He had his organisation’s desktops under control, because it cut waste, and the measure paid for itself. That action was worth doing, but didn’t save the world - the Met Office has huge supercomputers, so trimming desktop energy cut his electricity use by a very small percentage.
The thing that stood out, though, was the fact that David knew what that percentage was.
That small moment was a microcosm of it all. It related the tech to the finance numbers, and it showed how real measurements give you the power to make your organisation notice and prioritise efficiency tasks.
It really was a great evening - thanks to all who took part!