Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Broadband for a Sustainable World

The December 2007 issue of the Telecommunications Journal of Australia has four papers on "Broadband for the Sustainable Environment". These are the winners of the Eckermann-TJA prize, for papers with ideas on how to help the environment using broadband.

The competition was conceived by Robin Eckermann, who is best known for his work as Chief Architect on the TransACT fibre optic network in Canberra. I have arranged for him to give talks around Australia next year with the ACS.

The winning papers:
  1. Broadband communication enables sustainable energy services, by Mike Dennis, Haley M Jones:

    Australia's electricity supply infrastructure requires investments exceeding $100b over the next 25 years to maintain quality of service to domestic users. Being careful to distinguish energy service needs from electricity delivery, the case is made for distributed energy services which offer improved sustainability outcomes to the traditional monolithic generation model. A key enabling technology for commercial success of the proposed paradigm is a broadband communication infrastructure. Broadband is essential in meeting the cost reduction and performance targets that would allow a distributed energy service model to succeed. Using broadband, a large number of novel business opportunities arise. A case study on solar water heaters is presented showing that a broadband enabled smart controller can realise 20% greenhouse gas savings for a conventional solar water heater and 75% savings for an electrical water heater.

  2. Broadband telecommunications and urban travel, by R J Nairn:

    Energy consumption associated with transport is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. As the information economy expands, the potential to use broadband to eliminate a percentage of daily trips grows. In particular, broadband can make it possible for a percentage of the workforce to work effectively and efficiently from home on at least one or two days a week.

    This paper explores key economic and environmental benefits of a hypothetical 5% reduction in daily trips. Using a simulation model to assess the impact on traffic flows indicates that such a reduction would result in a 5.6% reduction in greenhouse emissions in Canberra, a low-congestion city, and 17% in Sydney. It would also result in savings of 5.54% in road maintenance, accidents, motorists' time and fuel costs or about $145 million annually or $1,000 per household by 2011. In Sydney these would be 10.5% or $5 billion annually or $3,300 per household.

  3. Broadband and the environment, by Roger Saunders:

    Availability of broadband to rural and remote communities would enable agriculturists to use Landsat, Geo-positioning and Agronomy to better manage the environment. Landsat imaging has developed significantly since the first Landsat satellite launch in 1965. Data now available from these can provide beneficial applications including improved water management, crop assessment, land clearing, soil erosion, salt contamination and pollution. Access by farmers and graziers to information and analyses from commercial organisations via high speed broadband on land conditions and the effects of some agricultural practices provides an opportunity to prevent or minimise environmental damage and support effective use of water resources.

  4. The role of broadband in the quest for environmental sustainability, by Tracey Dodd:

    Broadband is changing the way in which we work, communicate and access information and entertainment. These changes have significant implications for environmental sustainability. Broadband is increasing the speed and capability of the Internet, generating new possibilities and making online applications far more attractive for businesses and the community. This paper discusses the role of broadband in contributing to sustainability under three headings; social, environment and economic.

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