Commonwealth National Podcast

Cloud Power: Microsoft + Google (3/11/11)

Duration: 
1:01:18

Cloud Power: Microsoft + Google (3/11/11)

 

Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft
William Weihl, Green Energy Czar, Google
Greg Dalton, Climate One Founder, Moderator

 

Arch rivals Microsoft and Google find common cause at Climate One promoting the energy efficiency of the cloud. Efficiency alone won’t solve the climate crisis, Rob Bernard of Microsoft and Google’s William Weihl say, but smart IT can reduce emissions, help green the grid, and save money companies and consumers money. “The very simple thing is that we can save money by using less electricity. So by investing engineering effort, investing capital in making our systems more efficient, we save money in the end,” says Weihl, Google’s Green Energy Czar. Google and Microsoft operate power-hungry data centers around the globe, so they have good reason to promote energy efficiency, but Weihl and Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Strategist, insist that their efficiency gains will be shared as IT becomes ever-more integrated into the global economy. “I would actually bet that as a percentage of global electricity use that information and communication technology will use a higher percentage over time. But in the process it will make the entire economy more energy efficient. So, yes, that 2% will grow, but the other 98% will shrink, and shrink faster,” says Weihl. Bernard cites an example. Stanford researcher Jonathan Koomey, had, he says, looked into the carbon footprint and energy use resulting from the switch from CDs to digital music. “Even in the worst case, it was a 40% to 50% reduction in the amount of energy,” Bernard says. During the Q&A, an audience member asks Bernard and Weihl what can be done to overcome the barriers holding up even bigger efficiency gains. “Most energy efficiency work I would say actually is a no brainer. But people don’t seem to have brains,” Weihl says. One big problem, he says, is the disjointed decision-making practiced at many companies. “If you focus people on total cost of ownership, lifetime cost – capital, plus operating cost – and get everybody to think in those terms, not just in terms of their own budget, you can make a lot of progress,” he says. Bernard agrees. “More and more when I go and talk to customers, the challenge is much if not more governance and behavior than it is technology,” he says.

 

This program was recorded in front of a live audience at the Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco on March 11th, 2011

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