Networking the Green Economy (Executive Summary)

03/04/2010 Report Release Event | Press Release | Executive Summary | Report in HTML or PDF

Executive Summary

Networking the Green Economy:
How Broadband and Related Technologies Can Build a Green Economic Future

Broadband and information communication technologies have the potential of revolutionizing energy management and economic development. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for about a quarter of the world’s energy consumption.1 A poor communications infrastructure underlies much of our wasted energy use. In order to reduce energy, we must install new technologies that can monitor and more effectively use natural resources. Advanced communication will play an essential role in facilitating and integrating these technologies.

Policies that support broadband technology can reverse the projections showing that energy consumption is likely to rise2 and that greenhouse gas emissions will increase3. With coordinated research, support and action from consumers, advocates and federal and state legislators, broadband and related communication technologies can pave the way for a greener and more robust economy. By transforming the way people and businesses use technology, the United States can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 13 to 22 percent by 2020 — and potentially see gross energy and fuel savings of $140-240 billion, according to an estimate by the Climate Group, an international organization of business and government members.4 This paper sets forth ideas, research and recommendations to achieve this goal.

Information Communication Technologies Are Key To a More Efficient Coordination of Energy Supplies and Distribution: A smart grid better manages the distribution and consumption of energy that can facilitate more efficient energy use, integrate various sources of renewable energy into our power system, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and increase grid reliability.

Ӣ Establishing smart grids at the transmission level will enable digital controls and high-voltage transmission lines to transport energy from renewable energy source sites to distant primary-use locations with far less energy loss than the current grid model.

Ӣ Using communication technologies will integrate distributed energy devices, from solar panels to smart appliances to electric vehicles, into the energy grid and allow monitoring such devices and renewable energy in real time.

Ӣ Increasing grid efficiency through real-time monitoring, automation and self-healing capabilities of distribution-level smart grid systems can increase grid efficiency, which results in reduced energy generation and reduced energy use. Energy savings equivalent to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars could be achieved by improving the efficiency of the grid by just 5 percent.5

Ӣ By appropriating approximately $4.5 billion for smart grid demonstration and deployment in the recent recovery plan, the federal government has taken a small but positive step towards the larger investments needed to modernize the current grid.

Smart Technologies can Reduce Energy Demand in the Home and Office:

Ӣ Installing smart meters and connecting home and office appliances to a smart grid can offer additional flexibility and opportunities to advance energy efficiency and clean energy goals.

Ӣ Using dynamic electricity rates can potentially increase energy and environmental gains as well as economic savings, but it is critical to ensure that consumers benefit from such rate system changes and that other areas of utility regulation remain to encourage other energy conservation programs.

Ӣ Instituting smart grid technology policies will encourage the creation of sustainable jobs in a transformed utility industry.

Ӣ Using Internet-based broadband, open architectures, and interoperable technologies when implementing smart meters in homes and offices can avoid costly technological obsolescence and ensure that all parts of the smart grid work together.

”¢ Allowing various building systems to communicate and interact with each other through smart technologies will thereby reduce energy use and buildings’ negative impact on the environment. Through better building design, management and automation, the United States could save $20 to 25 billion in energy use and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 130 to 190MMT.6

Broadband can Reduce Travel and Fuel Costs: By reducing air and ground transportation — amongst the leading sources of pollution — broadband and support applications can reduce the need to travel, decrease gas consumption, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ӣ Increased adoption of broadband technology and telehealth practices could decrease travel by allowing doctors to monitor and consult with patients remotely.

Ӣ Telehealth technologies could avoid 850,000 transports between emergency departments, resulting in transit cost savings of $537 million a year.7

Ӣ Teleconferencing and other remote online communication also reduces the amount of energy used for business and education related travel.

This Green Economic Future Depends on Large-Scale Adoption of Broadband: To realize the economic, environmental, and societal benefits discussed in this paper, we must commit to ensuring that everyone, regardless of income-level, educational background, geographic location, race, and age has the ability to, and understands the benefits of, being a participant in our digital society.

Ӣ An estimated 3 to 6 million American households have no access to a single broadband provider, and roughly one-third of U.S. households with access do not subscribe to broadband.8

Ӣ Broadband subscription rates are under 50 percent for some groups, including certain minority populations, rural communities, and households with incomes of less than $50,000 per year.

Ӣ To fully realize a robust green economic future, it will take a firm and long-standing commitment to extend transformative communication technologies, such as broadband, to everyone.