Hot Topics at SXSWi: How Digital and Energy Worlds Intersect

Some of us here at the Green Mountain were able to check out SXSW Interactive this week, where we sat in on a variety of panels to stay on top of new developments in the tech and environmental worlds.

We were pleased to find that energy topics were at the heart of many digital debates.  Here's our Top 5 List of  some hot energy topics in the digital and tech world.

  1. The carbon footprint of Facebook - Facebook alone handles 300 million photo uploads each day.  To house the growing data, Facebook is building vast data centers - over 500,000 worldwide.  But most of them are powered with more than 60% dirty energy instead of renewable energy.  We as consumers should voice our opinions to social media sites, asking them to adopt renewable sources of energy to power their facilities.  [From: "The Paradox of the Cloud"]
  2. In a similar vein, #tweetfart is a metaphor for the carbon footprint of a tweet.  1 Tweet =.02 grams of CO2, the same volume of 17 M&Ms.  1 Google search = 10 tweetfarts.  1 email = 125 tweetfarts. Does this influence how you want to use digital properties?  Would you consider purchasing carbon offsets for your online activities?
  3. How do we get consumers to pay attention to products, and influence behavior?  Good tech design is when it is both beautiful and meaningful—with the ultimate goal of creating technology that naturally fits into your life, rather than changing your life to fit the technology.  The Google Nest Learning Thermostat is a perfect example of a whole new approach to an existing product that has forever been deemed un-sexy: the thermostat.  This begs the question, are there other utility products out there that can be redesigned in order to solicit consumer interest, and in turn, influence change?  [From: "Breaking the Mold with Meaningful Design"]
  4. The Green Button initiative ( is spurring innovation in the area of energy usage.  The average consumer spends only 6 minutes per year studying their energy usage on utility bills.  The Green Button platform is a solution to that problem, enabling households and businesses to access their energy usage data in a standard consumer-friendly format they can trust.  Folks can get involved by joining the Presidential Fellows Program.  [From: "Empowering Communities with Civic Science and Data"]
  5. Crowd-sourced or peer-to-peer business models are influencing change in highly regulated industries, like energy, finance, travel and health.   What does crowd-source products mean?  Think and SideCar, the San Francisco-based ride sharing app, where all products stem from consumers' ownership.  Highly regulated industries often aren't used to innovation because they haven't had to compete for business - which is where new startups have come into play, harnessing consumer choice to offer an option outside of those regulated ones (for example, ride sharing is taking the place of taxi cabs, and offers a better customer experience).  When consumers support a new initiative, utilities and political entities pay attention.  As Green Mountain customers know, soliciting a groundswell of support can influence change - as we do with renewable energy choice.    Keep on the lookout for more peer-to-peer type businesses that break the mold of traditional regulated industries.  For entrepreneurs wanting to innovate in existing old-school industries, check out The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. [From: "Damn the Man! Disrupting Regulated Industries"]

What's your opinion on these topics? Leave us a comment to get the discussion going!

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