Yesterday a high profile, international group of communications companies, government and nonprofit agencies, and research labs banded together to launch Green Touch. The idea behind the group is to work together to lower energy consumption in the communications industry. And of course to kick things off they needed to set an a goal worthy of the effort. Led by the likes of Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs, AT&T, China Mobile, and MIT’s Research Laboratory for Electronics, they clearly have a lot of firepower to bring to bear.
Goals are lots of fun to set, because you never actually promise to reach them but the press eats them up. Therefore, this goal of making communications networks 1000 times more energy efficient than they are today has to be taken with a grain of salt. Not that I wouldn’t like to see a 99.9% reduction in energy usage, it’s just the engineer in me that is a bit taken aback. I mean, you’re not just cutting current usage, you’re doing it against the neverending tide of traffic growth. There’s certainly lots of energy to be cut out of the system, and there was a steady drumbeat of news from the datacenter space in 2009 about finding green alternatives. But to improve by a thousandfold out we’re going to need multiple, major technological leaps.
Ah well, the Green Touch initiative at least helps open the year on what will surely be a recurring theme. More likely they will focus on reducing the non-renewable energy usage by a big fraction, or perhaps the focus will be on the carbon footprint. Those are more achievable goals for the near term.
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