Many companies are coming to realize that operating a ‘green’ business, in the sense of environmentally friendly practices, can also be ‘green’ in the financial sense. Eco-sustainability is an important issue in the marketplace, especially for power utilities; at these companies, being ‘green’ affects all areas of the organization.
Broadly speaking, eco-sustainability in the energy and utility industry touches on a wide range of business considerations, including brand and reputation, legislation and regulation, operating costs, investor’ opinions and the customer base.
To have a positive, direct impact on the bottom line of power utilities, eco-sustainable practices, tools and technologies must focus on reducing energy use and operating effectively with fewer resources. Eco-friendly technology, such as optimized data networks and intelligent applications can be combined with complementary operations to create a leaner, greener utility without sacrificing business goals.
There are potential risks and potential rewards involved with eco-sustainability applied to the utility industry. On the possibly negative side, this is an industry that’s especially vulnerable because of regulatory uncertainty and the effects of reduced demand for power resulting from the recession. On the possibly positive side is the potential to offset negative market trends by operating more efficiently.
Eco-sustainability can benefit energy companies directly (using less energy, cutting waste) and indirectly (help customers use less energy and waste fewer resources).
Two examples of eco-sustainable technology for utilities and energy companies serve to illustrate the benefits of this approach.
First, consider heat management.
“With electronic equipment, 30 to 50 percent of the total power usage can be used to manage heat,” noted Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) in a recently published whitepaper. “This is a very inefficient process. We use energy to power the equipment, which produces heat. Energy is then used to cool the room to ensure the equipment is operating in an acceptable environment. Managing the heat becomes a strategic capability to save on the resulting energy consumption.”
Designing equipment so that it produces less heat, or is less sensitive to environmental temperature, can go a long way. Solutions for better heat management include passively cooled, remote DSLAMs and passive heat exchangers in place of active air conditioning.
Second, consider alternate power sources, like wind and solar. Alternate power sources each have their own set of trade-offs that must be considered, and typically several different sources much be used to optimum eco-friendliness.
“Solar power was traditionally reserved for low-latitude geographies,” Alcatel-Lucent noted in its whitepaper. “By combining solar power with wind power, it becomes possible to power equipment in high latitudes, such as in Europe.”
Many factors go into an eco-sustainability.
“In addition to products, architecture evolution, process changes or operational model adaptations can also contribute to energy savings,” Alcatel-Lucent said.
That includes optimizing network architecture and migrating to packet-based systems. Deploying a ‘mobility everywhere’ initiative is also helpful.
“As utilities' networks are moving towards a converged packet-based network, utilities are interested in exploring ways to carry latency-sensitive applications such as protective relaying and remedial action scheme on a packet-based network,” Utilities Telecom Council notes in a description of one session at an upcoming conference.
Other hot topics related to this discussion include complying with FCC (News - Alert) regulations, planning for the future of legacy systems, and effective electrical grounding procedures.
Mae Kowalke is a TMCnet contributor. She is Manager of Stories at Neundorfer, Inc., a cleantech company in Northeast Ohio. She has more than 10 years experience in journalism, marketing and communications, and has a passion for new tech gadgets. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard