Climate Corps 2011: Social Networking's Role in the Energy Revolution

EDF Climate Corps

Climate Corps 2011: Social Networking's Role in the Energy Revolution

Creating an energy intelligence vision for Facebook, a company that quickly and completely changed the world's vision for communications, is no small task.

Facebook continues to transform the ways we receive and use information every day. And we, Facebook's three EDF Climate Corps fellows, are spending this summer developing new ways for the company to receive and use its energy information going forward.

To understand Facebook, we must first understand the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) space. In the past decade, ICT has revolutionized the business landscape by improving productivity and cost effectiveness of many industries. And ICT is once again transforming businesses -- this time in energy systems.

Portable and networked, ICT will continue to dominate both economical and societal change enabled by enhanced electronic data processing and artificial intelligence. In The Futurist (May-June 2008), Cetron and Davies argue that "all the technical knowledge we work with today will represent only 1 percent of the knowledge that will be available in 2050."

The Megatrends That are Shaping ICT's Role in the Energy Revolution

As the global demand for all energy sources is estimated to grow by 57 percent over the next 25 years, we are in the midst of witnessing revolutionary megatrends in the world's energy supply and demand.

Energy security and long-term energy costs are likely to become the next great challenge and opportunity for today's businesses. ICT leaders are now increasingly acknowledging the application of computing intelligence as critical to solving an array of demanding societal problems in the fields of energy, public, and utility services.

The IT industry is increasingly extending its reach into the energy and building management systems ecosystem too. According to an article on GreenBiz.com, "300 million smart meters for energy, water and gas [are] expected to be in use globally within a few years."

Many ICT leaders such as IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, and SAP are among the most recent companies to ride the wave to transform energy efficiency technologies into enterprise networked energy management systems (EMS). The ICT industry rightly sees the considerable growth potential in using smart technologies to transform our built environment.

The Business Sector is Realizing that 'Efficiency is Profitable'

The business sector is boarding the efficiency train too. EDF's Climate Corps program is in its fourth year of helping businesses lead change towards an energy conscious economy.

Companies have long viewed their energy efficiency spend as an additional expense. However, life-cycle and return-on-investment-based decision tools such as EDF Climate Corps' Financial Analysis Tool are making it possible for people like Climate Corps fellows to build a business case for cost-effective, efficient operations and valuable energy investments.

Here at Facebook, the idea that efficiency is profitable is old news. Immersed in Facebook's high-speed culture, the three of us Climate Corps fellows feel fortunate that the path to efficiency has long been paved by Facebook employees before us.

The recent launch of the Open Compute Project in Spring 2011 further established Facebook's efficiency mindset. And in case we forget, the bright green signs surrounding our workspace remind us that "Efficiency is Profitable."

Social networks can play a leading role in pointing social norms toward energy efficiency. Today's internet and socially connected world is giving sustainability thought leaders and energy efficiency advocates access to audiences they could have never reached by traditional means.

Both residential and commercial sectors lack coordination and direction, and Facebook's reach could just be the tipping point it might take for society to adopt energy and sustainability best practices en masse.

Sustainability and energy efficiency are no longer novel concepts. The window of opportunity to leverage energy efficiency for positive growth and lead the change is getting smaller, which makes it such an exciting time for social networks to play an important role in pointing social norms towards energy efficiency.

Data does not necessarily make us smarter, but our collective action based on data certainly makes us stronger. Facebook has proved that "social" makes things happen. Since social networks lead the societal change that transforms information into intelligence, I think we can all log on and be leaders in making this energy intelligence vision come true.