Archive for March, 2009

Warnings from Freedom to Connect

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Warnings from Freedom to Connect

Several of my colleagues are at the Freedom to Connect conference in the USA (http://freedom-to-connect.net/). Many scientists are warning that the planet may be close to a tipping point where we will experience run away global warming (see Andy Revkin’s recent blog from the NYTimes for a summary of several studies on this issue http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/28/tipping-points-and-the-climate-challenge).

We simply may not have the luxury time for small incremental adaptations to address the challenge of global climatic disruption. One of the major ways we can reduce our CO2 footprint is through de-materialization where we replace physical products with virtual ones delivered over the Internet. Some studies indicated that we can reduce C02 emissions by as much as 20% with materialization. I argue that dematerialization can be further amplified through carbon rewards (instead of Carbon taxes) where consumers are rewarded with a variety of virtual products in exchange of reducing their carbon footprint in other walks of their lives. But to take advantage of this opportunity of dematerialization we need open high speed broadband networks everywhere. Hence the importance of conferences such as Freedom to Connect.

 

See also: 2008 Global Utilities – Environmental Focus for Smart Grids

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EnergyAustrlia’s next step towards a smart grid

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

EnergyAustrlia’s next step towards a smart grid

In March 2009, EnergyAustralia launched a $3.2 million plan to implement an energy network monitoring and control solution, a key element within  the company’s overall intelligent network program, the Distribution Monitoring and Control (DM&C) project involves the roll-out of 12,000 sensing devices throughout the electricity distribution network, creating a smart grid.

Under the initial agreement, IBM will design and build the system IT architecture to support the project, in which sensing devices will connect with the energy utility’s operational systems using a combination of fourth generation and existing technologies.

The project will enable the utility to deliver energy more efficiently and reliably, and allow a greater number and range of environmental solutions to be integrated into the electricity network such as renewable energy.

It will reduce outages through faster fault location and preventative maintenance and, to work towards managing distributed energy sources such as solar and storage devices.

This project is an important part of the company’s initial investment of $170 million in its smart network rollout.

 

See also:-

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Global policies – Copenhagen Climate Council

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Global policies – Copenhagen Climate Council

The Copenhagen Climate Council comprises 30 global leaders from business, science, and policy, dedicated to create awareness of the importance of COP15, the UN conference to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.  At this conference world leaders will meet to agree on a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

At present this Kyoto Protocol regulates CO2 emissions from a select group of mostly developed countries. If the world’s nations are to decide upon a new agreement before the Kyoto Protocol expires 2009 is the final opportunity to do so.

A global climate change agreement is necessary so that we can limit the negative man-made effects on the climatic system for future generations.

Climate changes in themselves are nothing new. What is new is that the atmospheric concentrations of man-made emissions have increased dangerously in recent decades, and that global warming is happening significantly faster than previously anticipated.

As it is a late-comer in the international debate on climate change it would be quite a challenge to get the USA to pass legislation before the December 2009 meeting. But the important issue is that America is now also firmly committed to move in this direction, and they are supportive of the Copenhagen meeting.

The other late-comer, Australia, might just be ready with its legislation before that date.

China’s position is more fluid, and quite complex. Beijing has certainly made a verbal commitment to CO2 emission reduction, but the political structure of China makes it very difficult to implement such policies beyond the east coast. The good thing is that China increasingly wishes to show international leadership and that it is therefore becoming more and more engaged with the wider international community.

Like other nations, China is seeking to uncouple GDP growth from emissions growth. It does not want to be the spoiler in achieving an effective treaty, but it still takes a hardline position in negotiations.

Within the context of the current financial crisis it is important for stimulus packages to be constructed in such a way as to avoid locking in legacy industries; China has done well here in focussing its stimulus spending on retooling.

With the USA on board it will now be possible for agreement to be reached on the treaty. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon has convened a meeting of heads of government in September 2009 to try to get some kind of consensus.

However, it is quite possible that the Copenhagen Treaty will not be able to deliver the outcome that most people would like to see. The world, individual countries and individual industries are still very much silo focussed and it is extremely difficult to generate the trans-sector thinking that is essential if we really want to find solutions for this extremely complex problem.

Rather than looking for a trans-sector approach these silos will most probably become entangled with each other. The most obvious problem area would be trade issues, especially if countries begin to introduce carbon tariffs, which would lead to the kinds of boundary problems we have discussed many times. There is a very good chance that the current system will lead to a whole new series of trade wars.

Another obvious entanglement will be between climate change and national security issues, in both the medium and the long term.

For further information, see separate report: Smart Grids – Energy & Environmental Issues.

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Financial Crisis and Economic Stimulus – Focus on Africa

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

The effect of the crisis on Africa’s booming telecom sector is expected to be moderate and only temporary. While much of the developed world is already in recession, GDP growth in Africa is forecast to remain positive at between 2.5 and 3.5%. The outstanding growth opportunities in Africa’s still underdeveloped telecoms markets will quickly re-enter the spotlight of investors.

While the banks’ tightened lending practices will affect the ability of some operators in Africa to fund their network expansion, vendor financing – particularly from China – will continue to play a dominating role. China remains keen to establish a presence on the continent and is offering very favourable terms.

In the longer term, rising food and commodity prices will have an impact on consumer spending for telecom services. But many operators in Africa have already adapted to low ARPU levels and are still very profitable. In fact, the ARPU decline has recently come to a halt in many markets and even risen again in some cases, driven by streamlined operations and the introduction of new services, in particular mobile broadband Internet access.

Peter Lange, Senior Analyst – Africa

For more information, see separate reports:

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BigThink – how to move beyond the crisis

Monday, March 30th, 2009

The worldwide economic crisis is certainly a worrisome event, but now, six months on, it is becoming clear that we will survive it.

There are still tough times and a great deal of work ahead but we do have a good understanding of what needs to be done, and that is a major positive.

It is natural for people to be emotional in a time of crisis – cautious about what they do, what they spend, etc – but a more optimistic approach will go a long way towards restoring a positive economic environment. Admittedly there are risks involved in adopting a confident attitude in today’s financial climate, but contemplate the alternative.

I am taking my lead here from President Obama. He says that, while this is a severe crisis, its also a time when we can make big changes for the future. And this applies particularly to America, the land of the free market – free as in ‘no rules apply to me’ – where massive changes need to be implemented to the governance of the country. To do this will take a decade or more, but the longer we wait to start the process the longer it will take to get out of this mess.

In order to make this happen the global economy will need a great deal of support – people doing that bit extra, beyond pessimistic cautiousness. We all need to look for opportunities to move forward and now is the time to clean house and make plans for a better future.

It is also the time to address faltering systems such as healthcare, social services and the environment. But let us go further – a fraction of the trillions of dollars that are thrown around could also be used to help alleviate poverty in Africa. Let’s look beyond our own borders – in other words we need to Think Big.

This was exactly the message that I received from the Obama Team back in November last year, after they won the election. I was closely connected to one of the senior people in the Transition Team and I had suggested to him that perhaps we should provide the Obama Transition Telco Team with an international view on the American telecoms situation.

He took me up on the suggestion and we were asked to prepare some BigThink reports (they presented that title to us). We have produced four reports and a fifth one is under development. They are:

  • Plans for the transition of the US telecom industry
  • Costings and open network issues in relation to FttH deployments
  • Innovation networks: where e-science and telecom meet
  • Open access
  • Trans-sectoral thinking (under construction)

For this project I headed up a team of around 30 international experts from eight different countries.

It was a rare experience – to be able to really participate in the shaping of global strategies; to take part in new ways of thinking and present ideas to a team of people who were engaged and keen to listen.

Those of you who have been following the open access debate in the USA will have noticed that this is now a hot topic, and I feel we can rightly claim to have had a small amount of influence in this debate, thanks to our international expert team. We have also been asked to file a slightly different version of the report with the FCC. So let’s see what will happen with open access in the USA.

Totally new in my experience of the American people is that genuine interest, at a government level, is now being shown in what other countries are doing, and I have even been able to establish some further bilateral contacts between countries on some of the very specific issues that came out of these reports. This is perhaps the most exciting element of all; we are starting to work together – not just through official international relationships but through direct person-to-person contact, utilising the capabilities we now have with emails, wikis, etc.

It is mindboggling to be part of an international team of such calibre. The amount of vision and strategic thinking coming into the group from various different disciplines is incredibly powerful, all directed at the specific topic addressed in each BigThink report.

The team consists of truly national and international leaders and having these people participate in these not-for-fee projects is very refreshing indeed.

In the upcoming trans-sector report we will address the multiplier effect that telecoms infrastructure has to offer to other sectors such as healthcare, education, environment, suitability, transport, etc. In this BigThink report the focus is on building smart connected and sustainable communities.

While economic affordability is a key issue within the context of the economic crisis I am convinced that through trans-sector thinking, and utilisation of that multiplier effect, we can deliver these services at less cost, most of the time within the already existing budgets for these sectors. The same by the ways applies to climate changes and the biggest challenge at the Copenhagen conference in December will be silo thinking.

People are a far bigger problem than money. We need to break down the silo mentality, and that will be our greatest challenge. It can only be done through leadership from the top, but those at the top are listening, so I hope we can make a positive contribution to these changes.

In order to move forward we need to use more flexible and pragmatic economics, based on both market dynamics and social values. This is not something new – people like Adam Smith spoke of it back in 1776.

It is just that we have lost sight of some of these governance issues over the last few decades. We need to revive these and use our modern knowledge and expertise around social and economic developments, as well as the new technologies that allow for easier international cooperation, widespread people-power involvement and new, better and cheaper ways of fixing old problems.

Paul Budde

See also:

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