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Carbon Disclosure Project 2011 global launch—Walking the low-carbon talk

This past Wednesday morning, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) put on their annual global launch via Cisco TelePresence.  What CDP “launches” is a PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the responses to CDP’s 2011 Investor survey.

Cisco did very well.  We again made both the CDLI and CPLI (Carbon Disclosure/Performance Leadership Index).  Cisco had the top disclosure score in the Information Technology sector.  In 2009 and 2010, we were #1 and #2, respectively, so we’re maintaining our focus.  In general the IT sector seems well engaged on carbon reporting, judging by participation rates—95% of Global 500, IT-sector companies responded to the CDP survey (38 of 40).  That’s a higher percentage than any other sector.

Congratulations as well to SAP and Sony for rounding out the top three in the IT sector.  I was in one of the Cisco TelePresence rooms with Peter Graf, SAP’s CSO, and got to give him the good news!

The event used Cisco TelePresence units at nine locations, shown below:

CDP Launch Cisco TelePresence locations

For this virtual event, CDP assembled an array of 18 speakers that represented a broad range of perspectives.

  • corporations (IT, banking, retail, chemicals)
  • environmental advocacy
  • investor
  • United Nations FCCC
  • government

Within these groups, CDP also captured the developed and emerging markets viewpoints.

As I watched, I pondered Marshall McLuhan, the medium (Cisco TelePresence) and the message (from those 18 people scattered about the world).  With deft facilitation by Paul Dickinson (CDP Executive Chairman), we were treated to many speakers, many different perspectives, but each delivered quickly and with compelling intimacy. Going forward, is this how progress is going to be made on intractable problems?  Through this portal—”metaphorical table” as one speaker called it—will we be able to assemble the critical mass in terms of knowledge, geography and function to move the needle on a low-carbon economy?

Watch the recorded broadcast (direct Ustream, CDP website) and let us know what you think. (The streaming quality is fantastic; I watched afterward full-screen on a 27″ iMac and was mesmerized.)

Let’s move from the macro to the micro, from big ideas to individual responsibility and action.

Hats off to CDP for taking a risk and changing how they do business, choosing to walk the low-carbon talk.  I’m sure CDP’s annual global launch is very important for their organization and its mission.  In past years, CDP held an in-person event in New York City to coincide with UN opening week and CGI. (Cue the airplanes.) Last year, CDP began the transition to virtual, adding a Cisco TelePresence unit on stage that connected the auditorium to locations on five continents.  This year, CDP made the leap to all virtual, and provided a wonderful example of bringing together a far-flung and unique group to share views on a very difficult problem.  And none of these executives and leaders spent days and flew many thousands of miles for this discussion.

The technology exists, it works and it’s cost effective.  It takes effort to change, but the upside is intriguing.  Climate change is a global problem, but the solution will be built from billions of people making thousands of individual decisions.  Everyone trying new ways to live, work, play and learn.  So each day, think about your decisions and how you can lead the way.

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Video for the neo-Luddite

I work for a technology company — in emerging technologies, no less — but keep finding myself on the end of the technology adoption curves.  It was 2000 before I got my first cell phone, and I’m still using a non-touch-screen Blackberry. Even my two-year old son looks at me with pity when he watches me use my phone.

Part of the reluctance stems from the need to learn (yet another!) interface.  It takes me back to the first time I used a WYSIWYG word processor and found myself wishing I could go back to WordPerfect 4.2: I’d committed the formatting tags to muscle memory already.

This “learning investment” in older technologies makes it harder to adopt newer technologies, even when they’re clearly superior.

But video is totally different.  Unlike other technological “innovations” in the past, it’s actually becoming easier to use.

Consuming video is easy:  just click on play. (Okay, unless it’s a Flash video on an iPhone.)

Interacting with video is easy: just use a phone interface or a touch screen. (No more remotes!)

Recording video is easy: just hit the big red button on the Flip camera.

Distributing video is easy: just plug the Flip camera into your USB port — no more fiddling with tape and converting formats.  Or take a video with your phone and upload it to Facebook.

In fact, it’s strange to NOT see someone I’m talking to.  I telecommute from home, and 90% of the calls I make are over video.  I do one-on-ones with my team members over video.  I meet with groups, sitting in telepresence rooms, over video.  I brainstorm with people spread over five different locations, all over video.

And all over a home broadband connection.  Using a touchscreen interface that even I find intuitive.

I can see the sceptical eyebrow lift, the thoughtful finger tapping, the distracted texting, the enthusiastic hand-waving.  Silent pauses don’t make me nervous anymore.  Everyone gets away with less multi-tasking, which means meetings get shorter and more productive. What a concept!

Most importantly, video makes me feel as relevant as being in San Jose.   Sure, I don’t get the water cooler talk (who has time for water cooler talk, anyway?) but I get to wear pajama bottoms.

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Small personal action… holiday lights!

While Very Big Discussions are underway at COP16 in Cancún (México), let’s take a moment to consider Small Personal Action.  Treaties and policy can be created, and laws passed accordingly, but if the affected populations (that means you) can’t do the simple stuff, what hope is there to make a dent in GHG emissions?

So, ’tis the season to talk about your festive lighting displays inside and outside your house.  Replacing your old, incandescent holiday lights pays for itself in one month.  Do it today and you’ll be completely paid back in your next utility bill.

At our home, we don’t do many Christmas lights outside, just three strings of 25 of old-fashioned lights around the gutter in front (C9-1/4 bulbs in official electrical-speak). Alternating red and green lights if you want to know. We wanted to put up some lights along the back gutter. We hadn’t done both front and back in a few years and didn’t want to do all white, which was all that was left after using all the reds and greens for the front… so off to the local store to buy lights for the back.

For USD 9.97 each (on sale), we bought 3 strings of C6 base, flame-shaped, LED lights, 50 lights/string (one every 4 inches).  After a couple evenings, I got out the Kill-o-Watt meter to check the power usage. In the front of our house, the three strings of “old-fashioned” lights--75 bulbs total--were running about 565-570W total, which works out to 7.5W/bulb. The label says they’re 7W bulbs, so that matches up. Since we have our lights on about 5 hrs a night on a timer, it’s around $0.50/night in northern California.  (Residential PG&E electricity rates vary from USD 0.12 to 0.40 per kWh depending on how much total you use each month; I used an average rate for my calculation.)  (http://www.pge.com/tariffs/ResElecCurrent.xls)

Going around back, I checked on the three strings back there. 6W. Total. Six. For 150 bulbs.

I thought the meter was broken, so I checked a 9W CFL and it read 8W. I checked a lamp with two 25W CFLs and it read 47W, so the absurdly low reading wasn’t the meter. Even allowing for a bit of rounding error, it’s even less than the label on the box. Sitting in the house and looking at all the light and realizing it’s coming from only 6W is just amazing. The LED lights pay for themselves in three weeks, not quite in the Twelve Days of Christmas, but close.

Small Personal Action:  Replace your incandescent holiday/Christmas lights.  Today.  They last longer, save you money, and reduce GHG emissions.

P.S.  Yes, I went out and bought more LED lights and retired the old strings in front (into the recycle).

The Case for Energy Dis-Ecolibrium

This is my first post on Cisco’s Ecolibrium blog.  Rob Aldrich—Thank you for inviting me; I look forward to opening our discussions with the Cisco community.  We have a lot of work to do!  And it’ll probably require hundreds of posts.

Over the next several years, I intend to make the case for energy dis-equilibrium.  That is to say, our current approach for consuming and generating electricity and thermal energy must change in a dramatic way.  We must all become aware of energy consumption, it’s costs and learn how to manage it more effectively.  Simply put, this will require dis-equilibrium.  Though it may appear uncomfortable, it will yield great benefits down the road.

Before I start to write about the great energy dis-equilibrium, and explore energy innovation topics in detail, let me first share the goal of my writing.  I intend to use this space and the follow on discussions to illuminate the challenges that must be overcome in order to create solutions that enable community and business leaders to know when they are operating in a sustainable way.    This blog will explore everything necessary to measure, monitor and control energy--electrical energy, thermal energy, and embodied energy.  By embodied energy, I mean we will explore anything that produces, transforms or stores energy.  Food, water and steel ingots all represent embodied energy.  So we have a lot of work ahead.

When community and business leaders have the communication and application tools necessary to automatically collect, collate, correlate and report on their use of resources in a sustainable way—that’s when I’ll stop posting.

I think it’s important to have goals; I think it’s important to dream big—it’s what sets humans apart from other animals.  Though the topics I could explore are endless, I have an approach in mind.  As an old proverb states, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”.  So before advancing to mile marker 500 on a journey that will transform our lives and business processes, we will look at the first 10 steps.  Along the way, we will take a detour or two or ten.  I know where I want to end—but there is no map to get me there—but I guarantee there will be some interesting people, ideas and lots of innovation along the way.

Since many of the topics that should be explored are complicated I plan to cover some basic information about electrical and thermal energy.  Some of this I may punt to Wikipedia—but I’ll figure that out as I move forward.   I also want explore these topics in a way that makes them accessible to planners, architects and home owners.  You don’t need an engineering degree to understand how to measure and conserve energy.  The solutions must be simple and accessible.  Not only that but most professionals in IT and facility management don’t have extra time to waste exploring uncharted ground.

Topics that I’m considering in the near term include:

1.      Saving Energy is Good For Business

2.      You Can’t Control What You Can’t See—So What Can You See?

3.      Buildings—It’s all about thermal management

4.      Smart Homes, Smart Buildings and the Smart Grid

5.      Weather Drives Energy Use

6.      The Importance of Sub-metering

7.      Interval Data and Demand Charges

8.      Trends in Solar, Wind and Other Renewables

9.      From the Dog House to the Data Center—The Future of Energy Management

10.  Energy Communication Standards

I have dozens of others topics and articles, but I wanted to at least provide some insight to what I have in mind.  As I get started, I hope to offer some free but valuable practical advice while also adding a view of the future.

Before you depart, I want to leave you with one assignment.  This is easy--how many of these questions can you answer (use your own home as the example).

Assess your own energy use.

Do you know how much electric energy you use each minute?

Hour?

Day?

Month?

Year?

Do you know how much free energy you consume from the sun?

What about liquid fuels?  Do you know how much gas your car consumes each year?

What about fuel embodied by your food?

And how much was used to deliver your annual water supply?

If you don’t have many (or any) answers, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Many of us may know how much we spent last month on our electric bill—but that’s probably about all we know.

Consider this, a few years ago I presented at a Smart Grid Conference in South Africa.  There were about 150 people in the room from various utilities.  Only 3 people could tell me how much electricity they used (money spent—not the amount of energy consumed).  I asked them what departments they represented.  All were metering professionals.

I’ll end here with the energy trend illuminated today--in the future, more people will know more about how much energy they consume.

California Proposition 23: A Practitioner’s View

Advancing environmental stewardship is not a convenience, but a fundamental value for companies like Cisco.  The demands of business in a global economy are many, but social responsibility isn’t a “nice-to-do” that can be excused until another day.  Our customers, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders expect the highest standards of conduct from Cisco in our corporate governance, in our treatment of our employees, in our social programs, and in our environmental efforts.  Not just when it isn’t too much bother, but every day and around the world.  Sustaining progress on all these fronts requires perseverance, ingenuity, and most of all, long-term commitment throughout our organization as we also focus on the expanding needs of our customers for innovative products, solutions and services, and our shareholders expectations for increased revenue and profitability.

In September 2006, Cisco announced our first greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal―to cut our air travel―at the Clinton Global Initiative.  In 2007, we joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Climate Leaders program, and later announced a broader, more aggressive GHG reduction goal covering not only our air travel, but also GHG emissions from Cisco operations worldwide.  Since 2003, we’ve also reported to, and are strong supporters of, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the world’s preeminent GHG reporting inventory.

We’ve had some success in reducing our emissions.  Through the end of our FY2009, we’ve cut our emissions (in absolute terms) by about 40% when compared to the commitment 2007 baselines.

Our progress has been the result of constant effort, extensive collaboration, and the buy-in of all the diverse business functions worldwide within Cisco―understanding the science of climate change, its potential impact on Cisco’s business, and our contribution to both the problem and the solution.  Our initial work was grassroots in nature, but lasting organizational commitment needed leadership, in Cisco’s case by John Chambers, our Chairman and CEO, and our senior executive-led EcoBoard.  A pleasant side-effect from what was borne of social responsibility has been Cisco’s development of new products and solutions that are helping Cisco and our customers to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

California’s AB32―produced by the legislature and Governor―is serving the same purpose for California as Cisco’s CEO and EcoBoard do inside Cisco, to provide consistent, long-term leadership to address both the problem of, but also the opportunities for reducing GHG emissions.  The approach embodied in AB32 is similar to the arc followed by Cisco.  Public reporting and verification is first to foster transparency and a common understanding of the problem.  Then reduction goals are set to address the problem and focus the organization.  Initiatives are created to take advantage of opportunities.  Climate change is an extremely difficult problem because of its direct linkage to energy use, which touches every facet of a modern society.  Economic downturns as well as the recoveries continually shift the challenges to progress.  But Cisco is maintaining its focus―redesigning business processes for improved efficiency and cost savings, and entering new markets to help our customers do the same, all while improving our bottom line.

Cisco’s success has depended on the perseverance, ingenuity and commitment mentioned at the beginning of this posting.  California’s success addressing our collective GHG emissions depends on a similar level of sustained commitment.  Climate change is complex and, if there are valid concerns with the impact of AB32, then the forum to address any such problems is in the open and public regulatory processes established by AB32, or with the legislature, or with the Governor―who already has authority in AB32 to adjust deadlines under certain circumstances.

Proposition 23 simply ignores the problem and misses the opportunities.  As a global bellwether and thought leader but also a part of the problem, California must be part of the solution. California must not cede leadership in either venture capital funding or the development of innovative green technology solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of our modern society.  Cisco’s success has been based on acknowledging the very real problem, engaging our stakeholders, and supporting the use of free-market forces to provide green technology solutions.  The same approach, embodied in AB32, will also work for California.

There are studies cited by backers and opponents of Proposition 23 pointing to job gains or losses from AB32 implementation.  Given the inaccuracies of doing any such analysis, it might be more practical to use actual experience as a guide.  Cisco’s focus is on the very real problem of climate change―which will not go away if Prop 23 passes―and our corporate responsibility to be a part of the solution.  Our focus is also on very real and substantial business opportunities, opportunities that also won’t go away with the passage of Prop 23.  These opportunities will simply be taken up to the benefit of other states, countries and regions.  Sticking our collective head in the sand won’t change reality, either the existence of the problem or the need for solutions. California citizens and companies can drive the global actions to improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions, or lose moral and economic leadership by supporting the status quo.

Let me know what you think.

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