Author Archive

Use 0910 discount code to get 15% off Green ICT Workshop@CommunicAsia June 18th 2010

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

As a followup to last years successful Green ICT workshop@CommunicAsia’09, GETIT is organizing a one day workshop entitled “Profitability and New Revenue Opportunities with Green” on 18th June@CommunicAsia’10. This years sessions aims to go into indepth case studies shared by key vendors and players in this space. The morning session will be opened by IDA sharing the Green ICT Initiatives in Singapore followed by a panel discussion on greening data centres. The afternoon session will explore the use of clean renewable energy in telecoms.

Speakers include Mohan Krishnan from HP, Bernie Trundel from HP, Russell Perry from Emerson Network Power, Kenneth Bodahl from Eltek Valere, Anil Trehan from Andrew Wireless, Lars Bondelind from Huawei and Academus Tian from ZTE.

To avail yourself of the 15% discount as a GETIT invitee, please put in the code 0910 when registering for the workshop.

Sharing perspectives from TIA Green ICT Bootcamp

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Last week here in San Jose, California, the Telecommunication Industry Association based in Washington DC, organized the second in its series of Green ICT Bootcamp (first launched at Supercomm last year). Having been involved in and organized Green ICT sessions over the last 2 years myself, I was curious to see what the focus was about. I was indeed impressed with the work that has TIA has done to further the information flow around Green ICT and its clear focus.

Much of the Green ICT focus has been around compliance to environmental regulations regarding use of toxic chemicals in products, re-usability/recycling and on energy efficiency since many of its members are manufacturers. TIA has the EIA track online where subscribers can be kept informed of environmental legislation and policies that impact their bottom line. They also have an impressive lineup of lawyers who help give legal analysis and perspectives in these documents online. It was clearly pointed out that issues are different for companies that are just interested in compliance and for those who are on the cutting edge of leadership in the industry going over and above the minimum legal requirements.

It was here were things got interesting. The speaker from Juniper shared statistics that showed that customer demand for energy efficiency is strong in Asia and Europe (almost 70%) whereas in the US only 4.5% of customers demand for “green equipment”. I found this to be very startling as “green” has become synonymous with saving OPEX that it would be obvious. Perhaps it is the higher cost of electricity and use of diesel generators such as in Asia that make the business case for green more obvious leading to greater pressure being put on vendors for energy efficiency. In Europe, the European Union Directives have been clearly driving “green” as a vendor selection criteria. In the US, incentives are low and customers are also reluctant to pay for “green” innovation.One speaker suggested that when the rules of economy fail, then policy should play a greater role.  In the US, the new National Broadband Plan does now have a section on environment and energy efficiency- this could shift directions here in the US- worth keeping an eye out for these provisions. Now is the time to be engaged with federal and state regulators and keep informed.

Another interesting issue that brought some heated discussion was over standards. Since there are no clear uniform standards to compare energy efficiency of equipment, telecom companies are beginning to set up their own standards and scorecards which vendors have to comply with. Verizon for example, is experiencing about $2M in savings by insisting on their own scorecard metrics and have no incentive to wait for common industry standards. Whilst there have been some efforts to consolidate standards across industry, there seems to be dispute over choice of forum (ATIS, ITU versus other fora) and their speed in delivering common standards. To avoid inefficiencies, however, in the long run there is an urgency for some consolidation and cooperation. In the interim, what we will face is more “Greenwashing” and confusion over how to compare these various energy efficiency claims.

The session ended with some interesting perspectives over new business opportunities and some discussion helping to put “smart grid” into perspective. Overall it was an interesting day and the videos of the sessions will soon be posted online on the TIA website.

Funding Mitigation and Adaptation of Climate Change

Friday, December 11th, 2009

One of the big issues debated at COP 15 revolves around the funding the mitigation and adaptation of Climate Change.

Governments are debating who should contribute to this Fund (main concept is that polluting countries should pay more to assist the developing world not pollute as they grow–that some technology transfer needs to happen).

Starting from the Kyoto Protocol where Parties developed the Clean Development Mechanism to assign carbon credits that developed countries could purchase by clean tech projects in emerging markets, there has been lots of movement to find ways to provide liquidity. These range from  private sector creating carbon trading markets to Multilateral Banking offering “accounts receivables” type  financing against these credits, but there is still clearly a huge funding gap.

In July 2008, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors created the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and by September 2008 donor pledged over $6.1 billion. These funds will be managed by the World Bank and the Regional Development Banks, i.e African Development Bank, European Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. The initial study report from the World Bank, which focuses on the first objective, finds that the cost between 2010 and 2050 of adapting to an approximately 2°C warmer world by 2050 is in the range of $75 billion to $100 billion a year.

Yesterday a Multilateral Development Bank workshop was held over at the National Opera House to discuss these various funds and inputs for moving forward. Denmark announced that they will input an additional $240M over and above what they have given. In particular at the end of the day, a discussion around the  Clean Technology Fund  with clearer guidelines and parameters of spending was discussed. The key focus of the Clean Technology Fund is scaling projects around power, energy efficiency and transport.

4 main projects in the various regions including a concentrated solar power plant in Africa were discussed. Many frank input was given as to what works and does not work.One delegate was curious why Africa with water issues was chosen for a solar thermal project that requires massive amounts of water.Meanwhile, other projects they discussed had made attempts to involve small and medium enterprises, enabling co-generation instead of just centralised power systems and one even set up a :foundation” of local community players to enable and empower the community around the projects.

The overall theme however was very old school and idea was to adopt centralized large scale government projects for power generation. Yet throughout the day, there was a vision to ensure the impoverished and marginalized people benefitted as well. This to me is a hard balance to make especially if it comes from traditional bankers.

Whilst I agree that there is a real need for scaling large projects to produce huge amounts of electricity to replace the current carbon intensive ones, I also feel the fact that there is equally a place for co-generation in a distributed model. I was happy to hear the bank  does support grassroots movements such as that of the 2004 Nobel Peace Price Laureate, Prof Wangari Maatahi of the Green Belt Movement, I would like to see the Bank do more not just for grassrooots deforestation efforts, but also to support distributed models of rural electrification such as the Grameen Shakti project. Grameen Shakti through the local women installs about 10,000 solar homes a month and have installed 250,000 to date–these are the kind of projects that could scale faster in the emerging world without the need to build huge power plants and distribution lines. It also puts the power and money back into the people who need it most. Besides this project employs and empowers women in the process too.

I also suggested that they look at co-generation in areas such as telecommunication where it makes good business sense to move away from diesel. There are currently 22 million tonnes of carbon from mobile telephony running on diesel, and countries like India use more than 2 billion litres of diesel today. At the same time with zero carbon solutions like VNL and ApnaNet, and very low costs of maintenance and implementation, there are clear opportunities for a low hanging fruit project in the emerging markets which can really scale and benefit the people directly. It is expected over the next 10 years that another 30 Million tonnes will be added to meet the growing needs of telecommunications alone (India has 15 million new users, China has 10 million new users)—there is an opportunity to use the pent up demand for communications and their need to charge mobile phones to explore funding and scaling rural electrification (after all 1.6 billion people today do not have access to electricity).Since from the operater’s perspective, 30-70% of their operating expenditure is energy, they often get return of investment within 6months to a year-this should sound like music to a banker’s ears===great opportunity to fund the greening of the ICT sector (includes energy efficiency of data centres but looking beyond energy efficiency has greater potential). Having funding available from the World Bank and having carbon credits allocated to their efforts, will definitely help mobilise the whole industry to come on board. Right now, we only have few pioneers such as Safarikom, Telefonica, Google, etc.and we need to sweeten the deal for more to follow (helps them also break from the equipment financing lockin they are facing from their vendors not allowing them to change).

So Clean Tech Funds, outside the VC and angel funding exists. Of course these process are more complicated but it nevertheless exists for both private sector and governments. Although for now, Bank financing still appears traditional for project financing or accounts receivable financing i.e ways to minimize their own risk but the staffers look very committed to do their part for Climate Change Mitigation, development, gender empowerment, poverty reduction and so there is hope. In any case, the banks attemptto ensure liquidity especially through the Clean Technology Fund is commendable. It still does appear that the kind of projects the Geeks Without Frontiers is envisaging–bridging the digital divide sustainably and empower the poor out of the poverty line, may still fall outside the purview of VCs, angels, Foundation, microfinance, and Banks etc. We are still thus committed to raising Unity Capital to fill this grassroots financing gap and do hope to find “enlightened” MDBs that are ready to collaborate.

Prof Yunus speaking about Social Business

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Social Enterprise aims for a triple bottom line approach. Social Business on the other hand aims at a single bottom line, i.e. social benefit. Yet it is not a charity. It is a non-dividend, non-loss business (investors get back what they put in and no more). Any social benefit company that makes a loss does not qualify as a social business.  Prof Yunus elaborates on this unique new subset of social enterprise. Watch to learn more.