Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Green Up DC

Green Up DC offers the residents of Washington, D.C. a platform and tools to help reduce the amount of contaminants that enter the Chesapeake Bay.  Residents and business owners may plan new stormwater projects such as green roofs, pervious pavement, and rain barrels.  One key advantage of the site - - resident can also access information about financial subsidies and rebates, register installed projects, and view maps of other property owners' projects.


The program also supports energy conservation projects.  Approximately 390 solar electric projects have been completed.


The graphics are tremendous - - from the status dashboards that display high-level program metrics or key performance indicators to the the interactive web map created by ESRI ArcGIS.  Existing projects are mapped so users can identify other projects installed in their neighborhood.  Think sustainability meets social media - - partners CH2M Hill and Critigen have done a great job with this!!



Swimming Pool Fact of The Day

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the July 29, 2012 Dallas Morning News by Eli Lehrer - - Your doctor's big, fat paycheck:

"Between 2005 and 2011, as overall average wages barely kept pace with inflation (with rising health costs making real take-home pay flat for many workers), average medical wages grew a healthy 18 percent, rising from just over $62,000 to almost $73,000.  The American Hospital Association estimates that two-thirds of medical costs are attributable to wages and benefits."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Drones, Climate Change and Infrastructure Inspection


The world of drones is moving from the military to the infrastructure inspection market.  The electric industry (via the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)) is testing remote controlled drones to help it quickly count downed poles, wires, and transformers on streets that are still impassable because of fallen trees.  The Southern Company in Alabama will be the first to try drones.

EPRI is currently testing the quad-rotor Aeryon Scout.


Cooler Heads and Fatter Wallets

It was 105 in Dallas over the weekend.  The quick air conditioning fact of the day - - the United Sates uses more energy for air conditioning than Africa uses for everything else.  After a record hot summer, the spread between our AC and someones "everything else" will have only grown.

Enter Advantix Systems, a firm that makes systems that produce cooler heads that consume 30 to 50% less energy than conventional systems.  My AC unit works like this.  First, cool the air to well below the desired room temperature.  Then, blow it over a metal plate to make the moisture in it condense.  Then, warm the dry air back up to the desired temperature.

Advantix's "liquid desiccant" technology, by contrast passes the air through a brine solution to dehumidify it, without the need to waste energy overcooling it.  Its machines are especially effective in humid places (if climate change produces periods of extreme heat and extreme rainfall at the same time, we will all understand why Houston in August is one of Dante's Rings of Hell).  Much of the world's growth is projected to be in humid places.

The idea for the technology, and a great example of the need to take a broad view of innovation in a particular field, came from Israeli brothers who build ice  rinks in the Middle East.  Like all good innovators - - they found that many coolers could not cope well with the humidity there, so they created ones that could.

Advantix and Atlanta seem the perfect fit for a long and expensive August - -

HDR and Ethics

From a front page story in the Dallas Morning News on Sunday - - Contractors' role raises moral issue.  Interesting article for engineering to look in the mirror and ask several important questions:

By STEVE THOMPSON

Staff Writer


Published: 28 July 2012 11:03 PM

Early this year, Dallas City Hall officials asked that money be refunded to half a dozen city contractors after it became clear that a city employee had solicited donations for a retirement party.
An ethics expert called it a “shakedown,” and City Manager Mary Suhm reproached the employee, saying that “the integrity of the city is paramount.”

But that party was not unique. Months earlier, city contractors had chipped in $12,439 toward a retirement party for a top water department official, Charles Stringer, according to city records obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

In addition to a $5,100 catering bill, the tab included gifts — lots of them: $2,500 in tickets to a Dallas Cowboys game; a $2,000 ride in a vintage World War II fighter plane; a $700 camera; an $800 handgun; $100 in Texas Rangers tickets; a $700 race car ride.

An itemized accounting of the contractors’ contributions was included in emails between a vendor and city officials. The total cost of the party is not clear. Stringer’s colleagues also appear to have contributed.

City employees worked for weeks to plan the event, but it’s unclear exactly how the contractor donations came about. Water department director Jody Puckett said she couldn’t remember the details.

“Sometimes they volunteer, and sometimes they may have specifically been asked,” Puckett said in an email.

Key factor

Whether the vendors’ donations to Stringer’s party were spontaneous or solicited by city employees is important. That’s a key factor in determining whether the gifts were proper, according to Rita Kirk, an ethics expert consulted by The News. Kirk directs the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University.

For this year’s party, in honor of Trinity River project director Rebecca Rasor, a city employee asked for money.

If that also was the case for Stringer, “it’s clearly wrong,” Kirk said, because contractors are hardly in a position to turn down the request.

For the contractors, there’s much at stake. The city has paid the contractors who contributed to Stringer’s party at least $79 million during the last six fiscal years, according to a review of city check records. They have a lot of incentive to build goodwill among city officials.

But Kirk said that if the contractors came forward or got together on their own to fund the party, she sees no ethical problem. “Honoring people for their work in public service is something that we would want organizations to do,” Kirk said.

Either way, contractor-funded parties — apparently commonplace at City Hall — show how tricky it can be for city employees to navigate the ethical boundaries that come with their proximity to millions of dollars in city business.

A February report issued by the city auditor said that the city’s ethics program falls short. It called for improvements in several key areas, including establishing ethical guidelines, training employees to follow them and reinforcing that training as time passes. Suhm has promised changes.
‘Inappropriate to solicit’

The party, with a water-themed d├ęcor of blue and white, was held on a Friday afternoon, Sept. 16, at Texas Discovery Gardens. A menu beforehand called for tenderloin crostini, tequila shrimp, chicken wings and other snacks.

There were speeches and roasts. Stringer’s colleagues had gone through city archives to find old photos of him and some of the major water construction projects he directed. A couple of hundred people attended, many of them city vendors and consultants.

While inquiring about the party, The News tried to interview Puckett’s former boss, Ramon Miguez, who was a Dallas assistant city manager before he resigned in 2009. Miguez is now a vice president of the firm HDR Engineering, which contributed to parties for both Rasor and Stringer and played a big role in the fundraising for Stringer’s party.

At first, Miguez denied any knowledge of who contributed to Stringer’s party. But once a reporter laid out some of the facts of HDR’s involvement, he took a different tack.
“We had a party for somebody who left public service,” he said. “And I think it’s none of your [expletive] business. Am I clear?”

Miguez did not stay on the phone long enough for a reporter to ask him about his own send-off party. Puckett, who was in charge of coordinating donations for that event, said she could not recall whether money came from contractors.

Suhm, in response to a request for comment, said that after The News’ report on Rasor’s party, she sent a memo stating the city’s policy to all employees.

“Please remember that it is inappropriate to solicit donations from city vendors for retirement parties and city events,” the memo said. “Voluntary contributions, for such events from employees, citizens, and vendors may be accepted.”

Suhm did not answer further questions about whether that policy was in place last year at the time of Stringer’s party and, if so, whether it was followed.

City-vendor collaboration

Given the reluctance of those involved to discuss details of Stringer’s party, The News used the email of city employees in an attempt to reconstruct how it came about.

Stringer, an assistant director in the water department, announced his resignation late last July. Tough budget times had prompted pay cuts, sparking his decision to leave after 41 years with the city, he told a colleague in one email.

Stringer had found a job with Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure, one of the contractors that contributed to his party.

Officials in the water department immediately started planning a retirement bash. They formed a nine-member committee that met several times during the weeks preceding the party. Managers of various water department divisions were asked to work on the committee or designate representatives to do so.

The committee’s first meeting was scheduled for two hours on a Friday afternoon. Those who attended assigned duties, such as decorations, guest list, music and budget oversight. The committee sought bids from catering companies.

“This function is being paid for by private funds and does not involve taxpayer monies,” a water department office assistant wrote in an email to one of the catering hopefuls. “Therefore I was asked to present three caterers and their quotes.”

Early on, HDR became involved in fundraising for the party. It’s not clear from records obtained by The News whether city employees solicited HDR’s help. Nor is it clear exactly how other contractors were approached.

It is clear that HDR and city officials worked closely together.

“I will send you updates periodically, to keep you in the loop on what donations I have received and who I have spoken with,” an HDR administrative assistant wrote in an email to a water department manager.

“Please feel free to direct any parties interested in donating to Charlie’s retirement to contact me,” the HDR employee wrote. “Donations can be made out to HDR Engineering, Inc. and mailed to my attention.”

Spreadsheet of contributors

The HDR employee built a spreadsheet of contributors. Beside each contractor was a box, which received a checkmark when a donation was received. Donors were designated with various “support levels.” Six contractors gave $1,000 each. Eight gave $500. Others gave lesser amounts.
A few weeks after the party, the HDR employee emailed the final spreadsheet to the water department manager who was in charge of the party’s budget. The manager, Jennifer Cottingham, forwarded it to Stringer.

“I thought you would want to know who contributed to your retirement party,” she wrote.
“Now I can send thank you cards to everyone,” Stringer replied.

In an interview, Stringer said he wasn’t aware of how the donations came about.

“I really don’t know and I never inquired,” he said. “I was just appreciative for all the appreciation that they extended to me. I was just in awe and overwhelmed.”

Ethical gray area

Kirk, the ethics expert, said an ethical gray area was presented by circulating the donor spreadsheet to the water department manager and potentially other current city employees who might have a say in awarding city business.

“When you begin to find out, here are all the people who buck up for that sort of thing, that’s where you begin to say, ‘Well, does that influence future generations of contracts, because I know that Smith Pump gave $1,000, and McCreary, whoever that is, only gave $25?’” she said.

But Kirk said there is a public benefit to making the contributions transparent.

“We want to know that,” she said, “because then we can observe future contracts, etc., and we can make a determination as to whether it constitutes influence peddling.”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Netbase Water Distribution Management Software


This is an interesting software package that supports non-revenue water management from Crowder Consulting.  Improving "water productivity" will require a focus on "hard" infrastructure along with "soft" infrastructure - - the notion of increasing resource 'productivity" will increasingly circle around to the "soft" side of the infrastructure matrix. 

The bottom line - - we can no longer afford to pour money into grey infrastructure without the context of economic and technological productivity (i.e, viewing the infrastructure matrix in terms of inputs and outputs).  Better information (the "soft" side of the infrastructure matrix) will be a key to improving the productivity of public infrastructure systems.

Miya Water


Miya Water is an international consulting firm with a primary focus on non-revenue water management and helping utilities improve their water efficiency.  You can view both areas as high in growth potential.

A great top ten from their website - -


1
2007 was the first year in which more than half of the world's population lived in urban areas.
 
2
Water consumption is expected to increase by 40% by 2025.
 
3
Over 1.4 billion people do not have access to clean safe water.
 
4
By 2025, one third of the world's population will be affected by water shortages.
 
5
More than a third of the world's drinking water supply is lost from municipal distribution systems before it reaches the consumer
 
6
Every year over $18 billion worth of water is considered Non-Revenue Water (NRW).
 
7
In many developing countries the percentage of lost water is well over 30%, reaching even 80% in extreme cases.
 
8
Every year, more than 32 billion cubic meters of treated water physically leak from urban water supply systems around the world.
 
9
Only 10% of leaks are visible; the vast majority of leaks cannot be seen above ground.
 
10
If we manage to reduce NRW by just one half, over 130 million additional people would have access to fresh clean water.
http://www.miya-water.com/

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Field Force Data Visualization - Continued

Additional information relating to the previous blog - -

EPRI
3412 Hillview Ave.
Palo Alto, CA, 94304
USA



Press release date: June 14, 2012

Background Utilities struggle with inaccurate data, lack of standards and vendor "lock-in," which can prevent the cost effective use of their technology investment. Data exists in disparate systems, inaccessible to both the operations center and field personnel. Mobile computer power is wasted displaying out-of-date or irrelevant data. Often, data is not used because it is not available in the vendor specific software that is loaded on the mobile computing device. In short, the investment made in IT by utilities has yet to reach its full potential.

As utilities begin to integrate systems that previously operated with little or no data interconnection, it becomes easier to link together related data. Creating access to that data in a visual way could be of significant benefit to utilities. A standards based IT architecture is needed for the visualization of data and the use of visual data in the decision making process. This can result in the creation of powerful diagnostic and management tools that can utilize interconnected data and make it accessible to utility professionals to better understand the network and the context of any unexpected behavior.

Industry Opportunity Emerging technologies in the mobile computing field could be used to create a mobile integrated data access platform. One such emerging technology that exists in other industries is augmented reality. Augmented reality is believed to have been coined in 1990 by Thomas Caudell, who worked at Boeing, and is a combination of computer generated elements such as geospatial data, sensory input, video and other graphics that are overlaid on a direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment. The reality that is displayed to the user by a device has additional context aware information added (or augmented) to it. Augmenting reality is a way to enhance the user's current perception of reality. A familiar example of augmented reality is superimposing the line of scrimmage and the 10 yard line-to-gain colored lines that are now commonly displayed during televised football games in the United States.

Developing New Technology The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is developing data visualization technology for the utility engineering and operations professionals. Using tablet and smart phone technologies, real-time data from the internal magnetometer and 3-axis gyroscopic are combined to stabilize and provide a more accurate "compass" when a user points the mobile device at distribution pole or at transmission and distribution conductors. Global Positioning System (GPS) and Common Information Model (CIM) messages serve to locate and retrieve segmented GIS data from a utility GIS database and the device renders the GIS data segments on screen as a map information overlay from the camera image. An example of this would be seeing a pole structure symbol through the camera while the screen displays the camera image with the one line circuit drawing overlaid.

This data serves as an overlay on live camera images that incorporates the data from multiple sources and wraps the information into a picture of real images and enhanced data overlays. This augmented live camera data can serve to present data overlays such as the maintenance history of a power line device, fault location data, asset ID information, and outage management information in a concise form at the specific location. Data can be hidden or displayed on screen as needed. The rendered information links to other systems in the utility back office such as the outage management system (OMS), work management system, asset management system, document management system and other systems and databases. By utilizing the touch screen capabilities of the tablet platform, actions may be performed that link the user in the field to the capabilities in the back office via further CIM messaging.

Illustrating How This Technology Can Be Applied To illustrate how this can work, consider an engineer or technician working in the field that has been assigned to assess the condition and performance of distribution assests in a specific neighborhood. Upon arriving at a location, the GIS and magnetometer (compass) built into a tablet would identify the location and by holding up the tablet, would allow them to see in real-time a video of the area with data overlays on the view and a single line diagram and on the map. Using this interface this person could navigate through all the data for a transformer or switching device, identify its location in the GIS and a single-line; be shown the down-stream circuit on a map, query into its asset history, maintenance history, manufacturer information and catalogue. They could also query as to the state of a switch, execute a switching order, display maintenance procedures, identify premises with outages, automatically tag devices, create work orders, etc. This could all be possible with a properly integrated data environment and accurate GIS data.

The mobile device would use its computational power to render segments of the GIS data base much the same way as games do today. These segments of the GIS database can be sent wirelessly or held in local mobile device memory for image rendering. High speed wireless data coupled with CIM commands allow a variety of database information to be interfaced for a fast, seamless visualization of the data on the mobile device. Evolving technology advances already allow higher wireless data transmission speeds for communication to mobile devices. These technologies, coupled with the rapid development of mobile device capabilities will largely overcome the obstacles that have plagued mobile computing in the past: inferior performances (CPU, memory), connectivity (latency, bandwidth, reliability) and usability (small screen, uncomfortable input controls).

As a first step in bringing this technology to reality in utility environments, EPRI is developing a field force data visualization tool on an iOS based device (such as an iPad or iPhone) which utilizes the Common Information Model (CIM) for messaging. The advantages of such a platform include: · Cost - this platform can be considerably cheaper than a tough-book style laptop. · Simplicity - upgrades to iOS devices are simple and can be done in the field. · Communication - iOS devices typically switch from Wi-Fi to cellular communications and back without issue. · Cloud data and computing capabilities - large amounts of data could be securely transferred directly between devices even over large geographic distances.

Potential for the Industry The impact of this technology on utility field operations could be significant. The cost of automating field operations could be greatly reduced because even when ruggedized, the tablet platform would still be substantially less costly than traditional ruggedized laptops. Operational costs could be reduced because the application on the tablet would replace a number of seat licenses for the individual applications that are currently needed. Finally, operational efficiencies could be increased as work such as maintenance, switching, design, storm damage and outage restoration workflows would be performed from a common platform that would link the correct data with the correct systems.

About EPRI The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI, www.epri.com) conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, nonprofit organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, health, safety and the environment. EPRI's members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States, and international participation extends to 40 countries. EPRI's principal offices and laboratories are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Lenox, Mass.

Contacts: Don Kintner Communications Manager 704-595-2506 dkintner@epri.com

Field Force Data Visualization

I have written several articles about augmented reality - - the potential has always seemed huge to me and others.  This potential is not just in the areas of restaurant guides or tourism.  Real potential seems very near in many areas of engineering.

Consider the article in the July 26, 2012 issue of the New York Times by Matthew L. Wald - - In Blackouts, Drones and iPads May Come to Rescue:

"After the powerful storm known as a derecho struck on June 29, East Coast utilities were forced to bring in help from as far away as Ontario and Oklahoma, and had to determine quickly where to put the borrowed crews to work, even before the roads were passable.  Then they had to deliver poles, transformers, wires, crossbars and other parts to the precise locations where they were needed.

A prototype app for the iPad, developed by the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit utility research consortium, is aimed at solving part of the problem.  Here's how it works: The electric company preloads the iPad with data about the equipment in the field.  With GPS, the device knows its location.  A field worker can then point the device at a utility pole and quickly see an "augmented reality" view of the equipment, showing precisely what kind of pole, crossbar, transformer and wire are present, and how the system is wired.

The technician selects the image of the parts that need replacement, and "click, click it goes back to the loading dock," where workers begin loading trucks with what is needed for that spot, said Clark Gellings, a senior researcher at the institute.

It even has a Star Wars name: Field Force Data Visualization.  The Field Force, though, refers to the workers, and not to the subliminal energy field sensed by the Jedi."

The Water Utility Climate Alliance

The Water Utility Climate Alliance (WUCA) was formed to provide leadership and collaboration on climate change issues affecting the country's water agencies.  Comprised of ten of the nation's largest water providers (e.g., San Diego County Water Authority), WUCA members supply drinking water for more than 43 million people throughout the United States.

The WUCA has several excellent white papers on planning and policy issues relating to climate change.  I would recommend Decision Support Planning Methods: Incorporating Climate Change Uncertainties into Water Planning.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Full Earth Friedman and the Problematic Externalities of Globalization

Introduction
At the closing of The World is Flat, the “Flat Earth Friedman” discusses several potential barriers to the continued pace of globalization.  He wrote the following in 2005 (1):
“But another barrier to the flattening of the world is emerging, one that is not a human constraint but a natural resources constraint.  If millions of people from China, Latin America, and the former Soviet Empire who were living largely outside the flat world all start to walk on to the flat world playing field at once - and all come with their own dream of owning a car, a house, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a toaster - we are going to experience either a serious energy shortage or, worse, wars over energy that would have a profoundly unflattering effect on the world.”
This might be the first glimpse of Friedman in the context of the intersection of his ideas on globalization and concerns regarding global sustainability.  In 2011, the “Full Earth Friedman becomes more vocal and visible - - writing the following in his June 7, 2011 The New York Times column (“The Earth is Full”) (2):
“You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century - when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornadoes plowed through cites, floods and droughts set records, populations were threatened by the confluence of it all - and ask ourselves: What were we thinking?  How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?”
The “Flat Earth Friedman” sees the power of globalization in the context of the Triple Convergence.  The “Full Earth Friedman” sees the challenges and constraints of globalization embedded in the “Quadruple Convergence” - the coming together of our global desires for economic growth; the potential for climate change and extreme weather; the depletion of critical natural resources; and the march toward a global population of almost 10 billion people (3) (4).
The “Full Earth Friedman” has very “lumpy” problems.  Carbon dioxide emissions per head have been strongly correlated with GDP per head (The U.S. energy consumption is 87,216 kilowatt-hours per person - - the global average is 21,283 kilowatt-hours per person.  Energy consumption is very “lumpy.” (5)).  As a result, since 1850, North America and Europe have produced 70% of all the CO2 emissions due to energy production, while developing countries have accounted for less than one quarter (6) (7).  Most future emissions growth will come from today’s developing countries, because of their more rapid population and GDP growth and their increasing share of energy-intensive industries.  The potential outcomes of global warming are also “lumpy” – the impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed.  The poorest countries and people will suffer earliest and most (2) (8).  And if and when the damages appear it will be too late to reverse the process.  Thus we are forced to look a long way ahead (9).
Defining Sustainability in Terms of Globalization and Engineering
The idea of sustainability is an issue that engineers, educators, and organizations are beginning to understand as the “Flat Earth” and “Full Earth” Friedmans converge.  The American Society of Civil Engineers defines sustainability as, “The ability to meet human needs for natural resources, industrial products, energy, food, transportation, shelter, and effective waste management while conserving and protection of environmental quality and the natural resource base essential for the future” (10).  There are social, economic, and physical aspects of sustainability.  The last includes both natural resources and the environment.  Technology and engineering affects all three.  On page 50 of The Engineer of 2020, understanding sustainability is outlined as a key aspiration for the engineer of 2020 (11). 
The Quadruple Convergence – Energy
The unsustainable nature of our current global energy infrastructure provides our most contemporary challenge (6) (12).  Every aspect of our flat and globalized world is dependent upon the availability of clean, affordable, flexible, and sustainable energy resources.  Although never addressed in the list of ten forces that have flattened the global economy, energy is certainly embedded in each one.  From open source software (electricity) to insourcing by UPS (jet fuel) to collapsing borders (truck diesel) - - energy has played a role in the flattening process (1).  Both the “Flat Earth” and “Full Earth” are still fueled by fossil-fuels that date to the start of the industrial revolution (One glass of orange juice, for example, contains the equivalent of two glasses of oil, if you include the transportation cost (13)).  Our flat world remains an overwhelming fossil-fueled civilization: In 2009 it derived 88% of its modern energies (leaving traditional biomass fuels, wood, and crop residues aside) from oil, coal, and natural gas whose global shares are now at, respectively, 35, 29, and 34 percent (9).  Annual combustion of these fuels has now reached 10 billion tones of oil equivalent or about 420 exajoules (420 X 1018 joules).  This is an annual fossil fuel flux nearly 20 times larger than at the beginning of the 20th century (9).
Smil (who is Canadian) and others have argued that global energy perspective makes two things clear at the intersection of the “Flat Earth” and the “Full Earth” – the first is most of humanity needs to consume a great deal more energy in order to experience reasonably healthy lives and to enjoy at least a modicum of prosperity (14).  The second, affluent nations in general, and the United States and Canada in particular, should reduce their excessive energy use (the United States and Canada are the only two major economies whose average annual per capita use surpasses 300 gigajoules (an equivalent of nearly eight tones or more than 50 barrels, of crude oil, this is twice the average in the richest European Union economies) (14) (9).  Keep in mind that the first conclusion (the “Flat Earth” Friedman and the goodness of globalization) seems obvious, many find the second one (the “Full Earth” Friedman and the need for sustainability considerations) wrong or outright objectionable (9).
The Engineer of 2020 addresses our energy problems embedded in a host of technological challenges -physical infrastructure in urban settings; information and communication infrastructure; and the environment (11).  Robert Metcalfe, the inventor of the Ethernet, does a somewhat better job of outlining the opportunities and challenges for engineers in the context of improving and expanding our global energy infrastructure (15):
“The energy market is one of the largest in the world, yet the least innovative.  Many of the products are not what people want, many of the markets exhibit no genuine competition, and the oil industry especially is an oligopoly.  In the 1960s, when AT&T had a cartel over telephone service, the phone market was poorly served, there was no competition, phones were attached to the wall and very expensive to use, and the big players claimed no other situation was possible.  A bunch of inventors, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalist attacked AT&T - and look what happened.  Now phone service is far cheaper, better and even uses fewer resources, since its all low-power devices based on miniature parts.  Energy is ripe for the same sorts of fundamental change that results in better quality at lower price, even as we eliminate waste.”
The points that Mr. Metcalfe make are correct, however they are limited in the full nature of the challenges (and of course opportunities) that engineers face.  A reason that key flatteners, such as the Internet, expanded so quickly, is that relatively little capital investment was required for the hardware and the software, once designed, could be copied for free.  By contrast, the energy economy is entirely based on hardware, most of it big, complex, and costly (15).  The recent issue of Foreign Affairs points out the crisis potential with any energy transition, “Big changes in the energy industry do not happen overnight.  The bold goals of energy independence and of radically shifting to renewable energy may be attractive to politicians who prize what is popular over what actually works in the long run.  Short-term motivations have created boom-bust patterns that have hurt the clean-energy industry; they have produced business models that depend too much on subsidies and on technologies that cannot compete at scale with conventional energy” (16).
How costly?  The International Energy Agency estimates that in order to double world energy production and deal with sustainability issues (i.e., reduce greenhouse gases), $45 trillion will need to be invested in the global energy economy by 2050 (roughly $4,500 per person for a base population of 10 billion people).  To reach $45 trillion by then, 2 to 3 percent of the world’s economy would need to be devoted annually to capitalizing energy projects (15).
The magnitude of the energy dollars should draw more smart people into this field, improving the odds of technical advances.  But time and other factors are not on our side.  Consider the following (9):
·         In the United States the foremost problem in replacing most conventional electrical production with renewable is to get power from where it is most effectively produced to where it is most needed.  The existing U.S. grid is divided into zones, which do not normally share power on a large scale, and a new nationwide grid would be needed to connect them.
·         Energy transitions (shifts from a dominant source or combination or sources to a new supply arrangement) are typically measured in decades and generations.  It took natural gas about 60 years since the beginning of its commercial extraction (in the early 1870s) to reach 5% of the global energy market, and then another 55 years to account for 25% of all primary energy supply.
·         Consider where we are versus where we want to be in terms of global energy production.  In 2010 ethanol and biodiesel supplied only about 0.5% of the world’s primary energy, wind generated about 2% of global electricity and photovoltaics (PV) produced less that 0.05%.  Contrast this with assorted mandated or wished-for targets: 18% of Germany’s total energy and 35% of electricity from renewable flows by 2020, 10% of U.S. electricity from PV by 2025 and 30% form wind by 2030 and 15%, perhaps even 20%, of China’s energy from renewable by 2020.
·         Since 2005, construction has begun annually on only about a dozen new nuclear reactors worldwide, most of them in China, where nuclear generation supplies only about 2% of all electricity.  Except for the completion of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2, there is no construction underway in the United States, and the completion and cost overruns of Europe’s supposed new showcase units, Finnish Olkiluoto and French Flamanville, were resembling the U.S. nuclear industry horror stories of the 1980s.  Then, in March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, leading to Fukushina’s loss of coolant, destruction of reactor buildings in explosions, and radiation leaks.
Beyond the urgent needs of today’s increasingly global and knowledge-driven society, engineering must address several “grand challenges” of our world in the years that can only be addressed by new technologies implemented on a global scale (17).  Engineering must be very clear regarding the scale and scope of the global challenges.  A recent assessment by the U.S. Department of Energy in the spring of 2005 warned, “The world has never faced a problem like this.  Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the face, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary.  Previous energy transitions (wood to coal and coal to oil) were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary” (17). 
The Quadruple Convergence – Climate Change
Robert Socolow, an engineering professor, and Stephen Pacala, an ecology professor, who together lead the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University break the notion of climate change down into a very basic idea (6).  Human beings globally can emit only so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  After a certain point, carbon dioxide reaches a level unknown in recent history and the earth’s climate system starts to change.  This change has several potential global outcomes.  These could include rising temperatures, rising sea levels, changes in the water cycle, changes in the nitrogen cycle, loss of biodiversity, and antibiotic resistance (18) (19).
Pacala states that if we basically do nothing, and global CO2 emissions continue to grow at the pace of the last 30 years for the next 50 years, we will pass the doubling level.  The doubling is defined at the concentration of CO2 that was in the atmosphere before the Industrial Revolution – a CO2 concentration of 560 parts per million (6) (20).  Just a few basic facts are starting to coalesce into a strong global consensus (13):
·         Current levels of CO2 are almost 1/3 higher than at any other time in the past 650,000 years.  This includes much of human history, a period of time in which, despite periodic ice ages, the overall climate was conducive to human life.
·         Concentrations of CO2 in oceans and biomass are far above historic levels, causing problems such as ocean acidification and raising questions about how much more these natural CO2 sinks can absorb.
·         There is a long time lag before the full effects of CO2 are felt on temperature and climate; scientific estimates put this at thirty to fifty years.
·         At some point, rising CO2 and greenhouse gas levels trigger “runaway” effects in which climate change causes further climate change.
The Stern Review is an independent review commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Great Britain (21).  The report states the following (21):
“Climate change is global in its causes and consequences, and international collective action will be critical in driving an effective, efficient, and equitable response on the scale required.  This response will require deeper international co-operation in many areas – most notably in creating price signals and markets for carbon, spurring technology research, development and deployment, and promoting adaptation, particularly for developing countries.”
The Stern Review further states that “climate change presents a unique challenge for economics” (21).   In a recent interview, Mr. Stern commented that if climate change is not addressed, it will be equivalent to losing 5 to 20 percent of the global gross domestic product (22).  It can also be stated that climate change will both a unique and monumental challenge for engineering.  Two of the Quadruple Convergences have basically converged into one inseparable issue.  Engineers are faced with the challenge of simultaneously increasing energy supply, yet reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, and doing so on a global scale.
The Engineer of 2020 addresses global warming in the context of sustainability and environmental protection.  The report highlights that it’s impossible to predict the flow of resources; however, the report observes that it is certain that conservation and technological innovation will be part of any solution.  Table 4 of The Engineer of 2020Guiding Principles in Green Engineering, highlights nine guiding principles for engineers ranging from a better understanding of systems analysis, to understanding life-cycle thinking, to a focus on waste prevention – all useful as a starting point when looking at the Quadruple Convergence (11).
But The Engineer of 2020 falls short in outlining the daunting challenges engineers and organizations will face over the next 50 years.  Both Pacala and Solocow have pointed out that, even using extremely optimistic global assumptions based on current  knowledge – fifty times more wind turbines than today, twice as many nuclear power plants, doubling the miles per gallon ratings of all the world’s cars – greenhouse-gas buildup in the atmosphere will continue for decades (6). 
Consider the scenario of the United States moving from a natural gas based economy to a wind economy (Just moving from coal to natural gas has huge potential in the context of carbon dioxide reduction.  Coal has an emission factor of roughly 98 kg CO2/MMBtu (one million BTUs), while natural gas has 54 kg CO2/MMBtu (14)).  Natural gas currently generates about 22% of the U.S. electricity needs (9).  Can this be handily replaced by wind power?  In the U.S. today, baseline power production is met by coal-fired stations and nuclear plants, which respectively, work 70% and 90% of the time delivering electricity into the national and regional grid.  Natural gas power plants operate, on average, only 21% of the time, meeting peak demand on hot summer days and cold winter nights (9).  The following points out the technical and economic challenges with any natural gas to wind power transition (9) (23):
·         In 2007, U.S. utilities installed 3,200 turbines with a total generating capacity of 5.25 gigawatts of electricity.  A typical load factor for wind turbines in 25% (i.e., they operate 25% of the time).  To generate 22% of our electricity needs, wind turbine installed capacity would require 40 gigawatts – roughly 8 times the number of turbines installed in 2007.
·         Wind turbines would require building new high-voltage transmission links to carry electricity from the Great Plains to the coasts.  Some 40,000 miles of new lines would be required costing between $2 million and $5 million per mile.  In the 1990s, the U.S. built 9,700 miles of lines and this past decade we built 8,000 miles.
There is little doubt that energy utilization must shift away from fossil fuels toward non-hydrocarbon energy sources (17).  This will be another of engineering’s “grand challenges.”  As humanity grows in size and wealth, it increasingly presses against the limits of the planet.  Already we pump out carbon dioxide three times as fast as the oceans and land can absorb it; mid-century is when climatologists think global warming will really begin to bite (17).
Engineering and the Quadruple Convergence
Big changes in the energy economy and their direct interface with global climate change will be disconcerting.  Just as the ten flatteners and the Triple Convergence have been disconcerting.  Big, disconcerting changes also represent tremendous opportunity.  Generating more energy while consuming less oil and emitting less carbon dioxide is a knowledge challenge.  The reason artificially triggered climate change seems unstopped today and any energy transition seems economically daunting with multi-generational timelines is that the knowledge that will be used to stop these problems does not yet exist.  But that’s where the opportunity comes in.  Remember that the opportunity is in the $45 trillion range.  Clean energy may be the number one economic growth opportunity of the next few years.  The flat world will be grabbling with transforming their energy economies – and engineering and innovation will be critical. 
The World Is Flat
Engineering and the Quadruple Convergence
1.       Ten forces that flattened the world.
2.       The Triple Convergence.
3.       Chapter 12 – The Unflat World (we are still lumpy and energy consumption and climate change are perfect examples).
1.       Lumpy world of unequal energy consumption.  Engineers are faced with increasing the supply of energy in the developing world, while reducing energy consumption in the developed world.  This needs to take place before 2050 (14).
2.       Lumpy world of unequal outcomes from climate change.  Potential water shortages in several African countries, flooding in coastal areas in Asia, and extreme weather impacting the poor.  Engineers will be tasked with mitigating the risks of climate change (2).
3.       The Quadruple Convergence – increasing global population, fueling economic developing, produces the need for more energy, which has the potential for climate change.  Engineers must understand the systemic nature of the Quadruple Convergence (2).
4.       Sustainability and waste reduction becomes a critical global issue for all engineers in every discipline (6).
5.       Global Innovation and technology play key roles in developing solutions to the Quadruple Convergence (6).
The Engineer of 2020
Engineering and the Quadruple Convergence
1.       Identification of breakthrough technologies.
2.       Identification of technological challenges.
3.       Implication for engineers and engineering education.
1.       Development of the Engineer of 2030.
2.       Holistic thinking and systems analysis are important (11).
3.       Conserve and improve natural ecosystems (17).
4.       Life-cycle assessments of materials and processes (11).
5.       Prevention of waste – Cradle to Cradle mindset.
6.       Improve, innovate, invent – with the goal of smooth and timely energy transitions (15).
7.       Participate in public policy debates, discussions, and development (10).
From Global to Metanational
Engineering and the Quadruple Convergence
1.       How dispersed are the clusters of critical capabilities and markets that companies need to succeed?
2.       How can globally dispersed knowledge best be combined to succeed?
The Quadruple Convergence will be a time of challenge, opportunity, and responsibility.  The planet’s prosperity and security will depend on the innovative spirit, technological strength, and entrepreneurial skills of many of our metanational firms.  For example.
1.       IBM – Their Smart Planet Initiative is a global metanational activity.  The three ideas of a smarter planet – (1) Instrument the world’s systems, (2) Interconnect them, and (3) Make them more intelligent.  The theory is more intelligent systems = less waste = greater sustainability.  Improving national electric grids across the globe and the installation of smart electric meters are good examples (24).
2.       GE – GE Energy provides a range of global products and services, from combined cycle power plants (utilizing waste heat to generate steam), to carbon capture/sequestration, to 4.1 – 113 wind turbines designed for offshore environments, to thin film solar panels (25).
3.       Siemens – Between now and 2030, 90% of global population growth will occur in megacities (those with populations over 10 million).   Siemens has a corporate strategic focus on making these types of cities more efficient and sustainable.  One idea is what Siemens calls “light infrastructure” – which refers to systems whose strength is derived from a network of numerous small parts.  Distributed fuel cells and wind power applications are examples (26).


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