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Hello World in 2011 (and goodbye to 2010)

04 January 2011
Hello World in 2011 (and goodbye to 2010)

By Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group.

In early 2011, a few thoughts on 2010 and the progress made by the Information and Communications Technologies sector and climate change:

  • A narrative around the opportunity for ICT companies to impact positively on climate change mitigation and adaptation is well understood by ICT companies at the highest levels of their organizations
  • Companies are actively focusing R&D efforts on networking, sensing and analytical tools that help public and private sectors identify and monitor -- and subsequently manage – the biggest areas of energy or resource consumption that lead to emissions growth
  • Cities are becoming an increasingly important place to look for solutions because of the inefficiencies in delivering utilities and transport services to citizens
  • Smart grid is well recognized as a strategic investment for energy utilities globally, and investments are being promised for the next decade in China, USA, Europe, India and Australia.
  • However, ICT is not yet seen as a strategic or integrated part of climate change (emissions-reduction) plans at a city or state level
  • The value proposition for public-private investment in smart grid, smart transportation systems and smart cities in particular is not well understood. Who invests and what is the return? How do partnerships deliver investments?
  • Policy action is needed at a number of levels – not only the international level. Cancun (COP16) recognized that action will be required from city and state governments, and from companies, to send strong messages to national level that technology solutions are working today to deliver solutions for tomorrow.

At the risk of being wrong, here are a few predictions for 2011 around ICT and climate change.

  1. Regulation on the ‘direct footprint’ of ICT may be imminent in Europe (thought not in the USA) as government seeks to understand and measure the impact of the internet, data centres and mobile connectivity
  2. Cities will remain a focus for large companies like Cisco, IBM, HP, who seek to develop integrated systems-focused solutions for the public sector, though value cases will be required, without which the companies could be seen as ‘greenwashing’
  3. Citizen engagement around the ‘smart grid’ and energy sector will be seen as increasingly important in Europe and the US to deliver energy efficiency as well as new services such as EVs. In India, and in the UK leading the way in Europe, the focus will be on new models of disaggregated energy provision. In China and India, the main driver of smart grid will be meeting the needs of a fast-growing urbanizing populations and accomodating the rapid increase of new and 'clean' generation.
  4. Networked mobility solutions – including but not limited to electrification of transport – will be a hotter topic in 2011, both from a bottom up (think mobile phone apps that tell you when the bus is arriving) and a top down (city governments putting in the promised charging points for EVs) perspective. Stricter transport legislation (and investment cutbacks) could be a key driver for this in the USA.
  5. Data analytics, visualisations and other software solutions for understanding the impact of our activities on climate change will become increasingly available. These range from carbon accounting software to mobile apps for home energy use to MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification) - a hot topic in Cancun last year.
  6. Companies and public sector  bodies outside the ICT sector will see more proof (with on-the-ground examples) of the narrative that has already been accepted within the sector: that ICT solutions for energy and resource efficiency will be a key component of a climate change action plan

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