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The Balance of Power

Lighting generates heat and heat necessitates the need for cooling, and cooling requires more electricity. This is the equivalent of being in voice mail hades, a broken and endless hunt group, or experiencing a classic inter-relational exercise known among the energy experts as the energy straightjacket.A national energy policy is crucial for national security interests and business. The current complete policy is outlined here by section. Some state and local governments are not aligned with the national energy policy since the local jurisdictions (planning and zoning offices) are clearly blocking or hindering deployment of alternative energy. I say this because of the known barriers preventing installation of alternative energy projects by the SMBs and residential market. NIMBY is alive and well and in places where the elite don't want to see wind towers from their estates and other folks say solar panels on rooftops add an unacceptable appearance.

Even Maryland's governor, out of fear of jeopardizing tourism in Western Maryland, wrote into law that commercial wind-towers will not be erected to take away or deter folks from enjoying the "view" of the Allegheny Mountains. So while Maryland has an active wind, solar, geothermal grant program -"it (approval) still depends."

Now the "view" that I once enjoyed of the distant Catoctin Mountains over the years has been tainted with what Marylanders call haze, which is pollution. The "haze" akin to what you see in LA and other big cities is greenish-gray-brown and it varies in color by time of day and temperature. The haze extends beyond the Catoctin Mountains over to the Appalachians and down through the Shenandoah Valley. So for "our view" it seems the choice of Maryland is "haze."

Then, state-by-state are PUCs/PSCs (Public Utilities Commission/Public Services Commission) that apply rates and tariffs for energy, and differently for residential users vs. commercial/industrial users. In fact - two distinctively different methods of billing are practiced. The last tidbit is, commercial and industrial users of energy receive discounts when they use more energy, so the incentive to use less energy isn't there, with existing rewards in place of getting discounts if you use more power. Go a thought further - why would utility companies want to sell less power?

Enterprise is likely going to experience and feel new regulatory pressures addressing the use of energy in the near future. Not only is saving energy or being more efficient a "good stewardship" thing to do - being energy efficient is good business practice, and may help to avoid the potential of more legislation being used as reactionary attempts to curb energy troubles.

Then, barriers preventing small energy power plants in the local communities must give way to national policy. Next, accurate and fair billing must apply to everyone, as the existing methods of billing for electricity are controversial. Finally, unless the utility companies remove the reward for enterprises using more or too much power, then the incentive to save energy greatly diminishes. I've written about the market based rates adopted by utilities, and I still see woes ahead for consumers and businesses. To curb those issues (significant rate increases), efficiency and conservation remain the best hedges against energy inflation. These two steps will prolong building new power plants only for a time. The national infrastructure is in need of repair. As government and utility companies work out how to build a better grid, all users can expect increased costs, and arguably the power disruptions could lessen because of better efficiency; I think the disruptions will remain the same or worsen because of the aged infrastructure.

The environmental concerns in how we produce electricity will impact the bottom lines of businesses. Many customers simply don't read or understand their utility bills. Energy production will go to the distributed and hybrid model. No single method of producing energy is "the only way," and instead many options, some greener (including nuclear energy) will experience significant growth. Distributed hybrid solutions will lessen the need to build a bigger and better grid, and the focus is shifting to the distributed model with sustainable sources of energy delivering more to the existing grid.

Regardless of how much power IT saves or reduces in the data center - it isn't going to be enough. This is a conclusion of energy experts, since deploying sustainable solutions and the costs associated with them will take decades (see page 4 Exhibit B) to make a significant impact on fossil energy and CO2 reductions. (MacKenzie (Energy Policy 31 (2003) 1183) Energy is inter-relational and extends far beyond just the data center. Then, somewhere along your experience you will realize too that there's always the natural cycles of business: expansion and contraction. Growth will be an interesting challenge because it won't be without thought given to energy. Holistic views of how businesses function from start to finish will come under scrutiny. Then for those in manufacturing: the supply chain will eventually include the return of what was manufactured and used -for remanufacture. What isn't used may end up in waste-to-energy (WtE) companies such as Advanced Plasma Power.

Sustainability is a challenge to every process and business decision within the organization. Greening the planet is a lofty goal and whether or not your business ever makes it into and remains in the consumer "Green Pages" are just one of many challenges ahead. Enterprises will seek guidance and support for key energy decisions. As companies struggle with energy, questions and answers will bounce around and eventually back to IT; and IT will be expected to be "in the know." IT staff must be prepared to distinguish between the good and the bad and how energy technically impacts each business process.

My Buddy Eric asked the question, Do We Have to Save Energy Costs? Don't get distracted by just the price of oil since oil only accounts for 2% of what's used to generate electricity. Not only do we have to save energy costs, we must save energy costs of others, and while this sounds a bit dicey, let me explain. It's an old model of continuous improvement or continuous improvement process. I know for some it's a rehash of more TQM, CIP and other acronyms that may have lost favor and excitement. To drill the point down further -you must save energy and that includes the energy used by your employees to not only do their job, but to get to and from their jobs. Now extend this mindset to your external customers and to your products and or services that you provide. So, look beyond the data center for new opportunities and they will be tied to energy and, sooner than later, tied to you.