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Earth, Wind, Fire: The Many Faces of “Green”

Green IT?  In a Cloud? Must be Virtual!

Electricity. Where does it come from?

In a really great SCN blog post called “The Bio Bakery” (or was that “The Big Bakery?”) Uwe Fetzer talked about the economics of biological diversity, ecological responsibility and what big business has done to the marketplace. Perhaps that wasn’t his main intent, but those were some of my takeaways.  And it could be a fable about big software companies taking over smaller companies to gain their customers, brand names, and eliminate competition. But this is a blog about Green.

Uwe said something to the effect that “all electricity comes from the closest power plant.” Perhaps this is correct from a physics standpoint, but I respectfully disagree that this is correct from an economic view.  The United States has a power grid, connected with much of Canada as far as I know (reference: ), so that I might be using electricity produced in a different part of the country.  When I inspected a few power plants in a prior job, they typically had multiple boilers (there’s that fire part) so they could keep running even when part of the plant was offline (sounds like a virtualization plan). But sometimes the whole plant needs to go offline (single points of failure might be the rail line bringing coal on site – there’s that earth part).

I think Uwe is railing against the rules that prevent him from better choices in electrical supply choices, just like customers are sometimes unhappy about the forced choices of software vendors (remember Mr. Clippy?).  In the U.S., the situation for power is probably more fractured than in Europe, with each state regulating any number of electric generators, transmission companies and dealing with legislatures, lobbyists, environmentalists and consumer advocates.

Wind: Is it clear?

In my prior blog on earth issues  I wrote about source of electricity from wind.  Less than 1 percent of the consumers in the United States are using green energy, according to the U.S. Green Power Marketing report ( – page 10).  Wind is over half of that meager amount.  Only a few states have programs that enable consumers to bypass their local power monopolies to obtain energy from alternate providers.  And where it is permitted, people generally don’t take the initiative to do it.  In my home state of over 2 million houses, only about 30,000 have elected to change providers (page 39).

Let’s Green It

I’ve sat through part of 2 days of SAP’s Virtualization Week conference, including the keynote from the new CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer) Peter Graf.  I truly appreciate this opportunity, extended through the SAP Mentor program.  There’s has been a good bit of information sharing, yet also a good bit of information slanting, in my opinion, to focus on specific vendor products, specific technologies, and specific control structures,  The pitches have come in different styles and speeds.  I found the contrast between the outsourcing vendors and the big IT shops interesting.  I had a sidebar twitter discussion Monday about whether we would “all be in the cloud”.  I don’t think so, and I think it makes little sense to predict (or demand) that solution as a future state.

SAP Goals

In discussion forum responses to a thread about SAP’s announced carbon reduction goal, David Burdett first made some (in my opinion) weak arguments quibbling about how these numbers should be measured, and how difficult and complex this is. I asked how SAP would achieve their goal, which is very clearly articulated in this press release:

>  After analyzing its global environmental footprint, SAP announced its commitment to a 51-percent reduction of its total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its year-2007 published baseline levels of 513,000t CO2 by year 2020.

From this statement, I understand the following:

  • SAP knows what its current carbon dioxide emissions are
  • SAP commits to reduce them by  over 50%
  • SAP will accomplish this by 2020

That seems totally unambiguous to me. I still am unclear how SAP plans to do this.

Part of the problem, to me, is the fractured IT landscape presented to customers.  The press release is on  The Sustainability Community is on, but it’s also on BPX (

“SAP is in a unique, dual position when it comes to sustainability,” said Léo Apotheker, co-CEO, SAP AG.

(someone check the dictionary under “unique”.  You can’t be dual and unique)

The Train Wreck

During the Virtualization Week yesterday, [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] flashed up the “call me” sign for people to join the “Green IT” program.  I thought we were already in such a beast, but to join, I must send an email?  My response:

sigh. SAP releases a Green IT email address. How web 1.x! 1:32 PM Apr 20th from TTYtter  

That’s a way to disinterest the people who are the best at any new technology.

The press release says:

“SAP will use the new, SAP-led Green IT community to …”

In my view, people don’t like being used.


I wear a Community Facilitator hat for ASUG, and have a session called “Environment and Sustainability” scheduled at the ASUG Annual Conference, co-located with SAP Sapphire in Orlando.  I will be putting the agenda on the SCN wiki shortly; you might look at this page for the beginning of the Rosetta Stone I think we need to communciate among the various communities with interest in sustainability.

Put it on your agenda.  We’ll talk, make some plans.

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  • My colleague Daniel Schmid had this to say about your specific question around measurements.

    Defined 2009 SAP measures:
    – 5% less flights
    – 60% virtualization conversion rate
    – 5% less electricity consumption in office buildings
    – 2,5% less fuel consumption in car fleet
    – 20% less printed paper

    Additional Activites:
    -Further invest in tele conferencing capabilities
    -Increase share of green energy for 2010: from 17% to 68% for headquarters Walldorf/Rot (represents 40% of SAP´s global electricity consumption)
    -Invest in solar technology for SAP facilities (Palo Alto)
    -Change Management program including Sustainability Champions
    -Establish Environmental Policy

    Next sustainability report will provide more details, which will published soon (during May).

    (Daniel is at an summit or he would answer himself by the way)