There’s an article in this week’s Time (paywall, sorry) about smart power and big data being the new darlings of clean tech. Unlike most other clean tech technologies, I actually think this is a good idea. It’s relatively inexpensive and has the potential to net serious savings. And it actually addresses what I think many of the greens and engineers would say is the biggest problem: waste.
The relative inexpensiveness, however, make it unlikely – in my estimation – that it will ever be fully endorsed by the greens. It’s not that sexy – in part, because it’s not that expensive. And because it’s not expensive, it means that it won’t result in a lot of government or private funds being directed to these technologies/companies in very public ways. That is: big data won’t garner the kinds of cool photo ops that wind turbines do and thus won’t make greens enviro-tech celebrities. And so they don’t get behind it as much.
Furthermore, big data and energy savings run counter to the fundamental tenant of environmentalism: that whatever is done must involve sacrifice. Big data and efficiency actually don’t require much sacrifice in terms of cost and require no sacrifice in terms of behavioral changes. The greens won’t be happy.
I also find it a bit funny (and contrary to my above note about behavioral change) that big data is essentially nothing more than automating the act of turning off the lights. I’ve always marveled that so many people who claim to care about the environment and who believe that saving energy is an important thing to do to protect the environment don’t do a better job of simply turning off the lights.