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Information Technology Holds the Key to Addressing the “3 Es”

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Americans are bombarded these days with press accounts of our economic ‘meltdown’ and the challenge of climate change.  And, while gas prices have returned to more reasonable levels, the memory of $4 gas probably is still fresh enough to make us cringe as we approach the gas pump to refill our tanks.


Individually, these challenges are daunting enough.  Taken together they are almost enough to drive one away from the news programs, newspapers, and websites and toward “Seinfeld” reruns (or “I Love Lucy,” if you are a few years older)! 


But, it turns out, these three “issues” – the economy, energy security, and our environment – are interconnected and in a good way.  If we holistically view these “3 Es” – economy, energy and environment – our economy can be dynamic and robust while at the same time becoming increasingly energy efficient and environmentally-, especially climate-friendly.  


Perhaps the most powerful way to tackle the 3 Es together is through the use of information and communications technology (ICT) to improve the energy efficiency of society.  Energy efficiency, it turns out, is the easiest and cheapest way to start addressing climate change.  A 2007 study by McKinsey and Company – “Reducing US Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much At What Cost?” – powerfully demonstrated that the US has many practical options for reducing our climate emissions. http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/ccsi/pdf/US_ghg_final_report.pdf  Many of those options can be pursued at no cost or can in fact create wealth for society.  Most of those “freebies” entail energy efficiency.  And many of those energy efficiency options entail the application of various forms of ICT.


Subsequent studies have fleshed-out the contribution ICT can make to improve energy efficiency and reduce climate emissions.  Most recently, The Climate Group, a leading environmental NGO, released two successive “Smart 2020” reports.  The most recent – “Smart 2020: Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age: US Report Addendum” – estimates that ICT could reduce US climate emissions by 22% by 2020.  This is a huge number compared to other options.  http://www.gesi.org/files/20081118_smart_2020_us_report_addendum_full.pdf


What’s missing?  What is standing in the way of our realizing this significant potential?  The answer is “smart” public policies – policies that enable, encourage, and expand the energy, environmental and economic role of ICT.  Smart policies are needed to overcome a number of market failures and other barriers to realizing the full energy efficiency potential.


Intel is leading the way in trying to close the policy gap.  We have joined with Dell, HP, EMC, Microsoft and a number of other ICT companies, as well as NGOs such as The Climate Group and the Alliance to Save Energy, to form the Digital Energy Solutions Campaign (DESC).  Look to future blogs here to learn more about DESC.