Last month, I participated in a panel discussion at Cleantech North on partnering for the establishment and growth of Cleantech applications and investments. Truth to be told: I’m no expert in Cleantech – but am certainly aware of its importance for addressing environmental sustainability while providing positive financial returns for investors and customers.
Cleantech refers to new technology and related business models that provide superior performance at lower cost; reduces or eliminates negative environmental impact; and improves the productive and responsible use of natural resources. Cleantech is mostly equated with renewable energy (wind power, solar power, biomass, hydropower, biofuels) but includes many other appliances that are now more energy efficient.
Being part of one of the largest technology companies in the world, I see the unequivocal relevance of IT in Cleantech and the significance of partnerships in the pursuit of economically sustainable innovation that addresses the many environmental challenges we face on Earth.
IT is Cleantech. Although technology is often accused of being a great contributor to energy consumption and inefficiency, it certainly can have much greater impact on the betterment of our environment (if you pick the right solutions from the right company). With the deployment of virtualization, we centralize the compute power and subsequent energy load—while delivering distributed and improved services and applications. This consolidation of IT functions has a tremendous impact on the overall environmental footprint, while providing greater flexibility and resiliency.
Furthermore, the use of business video (TelePresence) has a tremendous impact on businesses carbon footprint if make it avoid financial and environmental costly business and commuter travel. Ultra-high Definition and easy to use video communications will bring people together virtually without the hardship on the environment. At Cisco alone we have been able to reduce our carbon emissions by 40% thanks to the use of TelePresence and the elimination of business travel. Oh, and by the way, it also saved the company more than $1B in productivity gains and travel expense reduction.
Lastly, IT devices become more intelligent and energy efficient themselves while delivering more powerful capabilities; the IP Network has now the ability to improve energy performance of its connected IT edge devices (with EnergyWise).
Everything IT touches can be Green. The positive impact IT can have on the environment goes beyond its own components and devices. As we live in a world where everything becomes connected, we now can use the IP Network (the underlying nervous system of all IT) to monitor, measure, control, and optimize the energy consumption of everything we do, everything we use, and everything we touch. Consider the intelligent optimization of the Smart Grid (with renewable energy end-points) as we understand what and how much to deliver when and where, while harmonizing everything that connects to the grid.
Within buildings we see the converge of HVAC, lighting, and other building systems (that aren’t necessarily IT systems—yet) over the single IP Network which now provides the ability to improve the overall energy footprint. Our mobile devices can consume real-time data of our environmental impact and provide us with strategies to contribute to its reduction.
This later argument requires partnering….and lots of it. It’s the governments, venture capital world and companies like ours that need to embrace the many innovators out there that are seeking to play a role in the improvement of our environment. If we can spend Billions on bail-outs and Trillions on wars, we certainly should be able to find the capital (financial and intellectual) to spearhead new technologies and business models that can make our world a better (and greener) place. In turn, we would all welcome financial returns and an eco-system that will help us grow greater business opportunities and create new industries and jobs. Cleantech is good for everyone: IT is good for Cleantech and Cleantech can’t do without IT.