Environment Variables
The Week in Green Software: Netflix, Refurbishment and Anti-Greenwashing Laws
April 5, 2023
On this episode of The Week in Green Software, Chris Adams and Asim Hussain discuss the latest research on streaming emissions from Netflix and DIMPACT, the environmental impact of refurbished tech from Back Market, The European Commission's Right to Repair Law and their proposal for an Anti Greenwashing Law which is being echoed across the channel with the UK’s Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill. Asim also discovers an alternative to central heating with his hot TV! The usual exciting resources and events in the show notes from TWiGS, Environment Variables and the Green Software Foundation.
On this episode of The Week in Green Software, Chris Adams and Asim Hussain discuss the latest research on streaming emissions from Netflix and DIMPACT, the environmental impact of refurbished tech from Back Market, The European Commission's Right to Repair Law and their proposal for an Anti Greenwashing Law which is being echoed across the channel with the UK’s Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill. Asim also discovers an alternative to central heating with his hot TV! The usual exciting resources and events in the show notes from TWiGS, Environment Variables and the Green Software Foundation.

Learn more about our people:

Find out more about the GSF:



If you enjoyed this episode then please either:

Transcript Below:

Chris Adams: Turning bauxite into aluminum is incredibly energy intensive. It's in terms of density of load versus the area used. The only thing that is greater than it is data centers.

Asim Hussain: Oh, alright.

Chris Adams: Yeah. Or maybe Bitcoin mining, but you can, they probably count as a data center as well. But basically, yeah, incredibly dense load, which is why you see this, and this really spelled out to me just how big a player some of these large companies are now.

Hello, and welcome to Environment Variables, brought to you by the Green Software Foundation. In each episode, we discuss the latest news and events surrounding green software. On our show, you can expect candid conversations with top experts in their field who have a passion for how to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of software.

I'm your host, Chris Adams. Welcome to The Week in Green Software, or TWiGS, where we bring you the latest news and updates from the world of sustainable software development. I'm your host, Chris Adams, and I'm joined here with Asim today. Hey, Asim.

Asim Hussain: Hiya

Chris Adams: Oh, see, before we go further, we should probably introduce ourselves, shouldn't we?

Asim Hussain: yeah. Sounds good.

Chris Adams: Okay, so my name's Chris. I am the policy working group co-chair in the Green Software Foundation, and I'm also the executive director of the Green Web Foundation. I'm also an organizer at climateaction.tech, and I think that's enough things for me to explain what I do. Asim, I'll hand over to you next.

Asim Hussain: Yep. Hi name's Asim Hussain I'm the executive director and chairperson of the Green Software Foundation. I'm also a director of Green software at Intel and uh, ex-organizer at climaaction.tech, which is where me and Chris, we didn't meet then, but we first started working closely together.

Chris Adams: Where we started working together. We met at OMG Climate, another conference based in London and Berlin, which was a successor to OMGDPR, which is a conference all about GDPR, which was considered quite an earth shattering thing to be thinking about back in 2018.

Asim Hussain: I definitely shattered the earth a little bit, didn't it?

Chris Adams: Yeah, a little bit. It definitely had an impact.

So today, if you're familiar, if you're not familiar with the format for this show, we generally run through some of the stories that have come up and share some of the commentary and sometimes we invite guests on to talk about some of these. I think we've got a few stories here from link, stuff from Netflix, the environmental impact of refurbished tech from Back Market, and some interesting news from the policy point of view with both the European Commission and stuff going down in the UK as well.

Should we start Asim?

Asim Hussain: Let's start with Netflix, should we?

Chris Adams: Yes, what the latest research on streaming emissions tells us. So this is a piece published by Netflix and in collaboration with the folks at DIMPACT, which I think stands for Digital Impact. So this has a number of real kind of heavyweights in the field. Dr. Daniel Schien, Dr. Jonathan Koomey, Jens Malmodin and a number of other companies are sharing data along this like BT, Orange, TalkTalk, Spotify and Netflix themselves. Uh, they did a bunch of literature review about what the state of the art is for this, and they used some of this to work out some of their own figures themselves. Asim, I think you've had a look at this as well.

What caught your own when you saw this?

Asim Hussain: Well, what caught my eye was I've been hearing about DIMPACT. Is it DIMPACT or D-IMPACT?

Chris Adams: I'm not quite sure

Asim Hussain: DIMPACT for a while and Daniel Schien is Dr. Daniel Schien is a member of the foundation's, been active member of the standards working group amongst other things for a while. So we've been talking for a while and just really, and yeah, it's.

Think the papers as well as the Litera literary Review does it in such a way where actually creates recommendations or what's it call 'em? Principles. Yeah. Which is a good way to go. It gives very direct feedback advice to everybody else for what to look at. See, they've got four principles. Should we dig into them?

Chris Adams: Yeah, you can run through. These are the ones for the government. So as I understand this is basically the company saying, Okay, government, this is what you need to do so we can do our reporting properly. That's largely it. I think with the idea being that one organization is saying it's too big for any one of us to solve by ourselves, so you're gonna have to have government involved for this part here.

That's the argument they're making, at least as I read through it. And yeah. Should we run through these cuz there's four and they're relatively catchy. Do you wanna start with number.

Asim Hussain: yeah. Principle one, expand access to shared contemporary data that is no more than one to two years old, and which does not compromise competitive and proprietary information, which is interesting cuz that's actually oftentimes the feedback I hear from organizations regarding being more transparent with around data.

It's that worry that you are going to be revealing yeah, competitive and proprietary information. And I don't know, I will say now I'm gonna be opinionated. I would say it's not even with the greatest understanding that you will, it's the worry that you might, because if you're an exec inside an organization, it's far easier.

You're not gonna have a huge mistake by saying no to revealing some data. But the worry is that you are gonna say yes to something and then something will get revealed.

Chris Adams: And then you publish your cost structure. Is that it?

Asim Hussain: Accidentally. You don't realize if you divide it by five, it's your cost structure. Like you just don't realize that.

Chris Adams: Fun factoid. 10 years ago I worked at a company called AMEE, Avoid Mass Extinction Engine. One of the ideas behind some of the carbon accounting was to work with organizations because if you are upstream and you have organizations sharing their carbon emissions to you, It does indeed give you some idea of what the cost structure is likely to be, and that gives you an idea of who you should be speaking to first in terms of trying to achieve some carbon reduction.

So on one level there is this idea about a cost structure thing, but there's also this idea that if you have deeper supply chain engagement, then there's greater chance to have some mutually beneficial up collaboration there. And there were was one example of a very large soft drink manufacturer then working with their suppliers and they would basically say, A huge chunk of our supply chain emissions is from you guys having old fridges.

So why don't we actually just agree with you to get so you buy better fridges. Cause it's gonna make us look better and you look better so you can you please change the fridges? That's literally how it worked and this is why I think it's quite interesting because it works both ways and uh, there is a kind of mindset shift that may be necessary for this.

Anyway, we've got three more principles to look at here cuz this is quite exciting. Okay, next.

Asim Hussain: You do the next

Chris Adams: one.

Yeah. Okay. Ensure appropriate modeling for decision making. This is through continued research to avoid oversimplified and biased results. I think this is actually a reference to the fact that in many cases there will be models which you say let's you looking at something like streaming, for example.

This one here, if you look at the research, Netflix basically say, okay, for what we do, and we're looking at about 1% of the emissions come from the data center, 10% from the network, and nearly 90% come from the device manufacturers like at the end, which is like your tablet or your big screen, or your router, or like the wifi on your house, for example.

Or maybe a TV or digital video box, whatever settop box you might actually have. And that's a different modeling from what you might see in other services. So if you have something which is entirely web based, where they're not doing so much streaming of video, then you might have a different setup because each request has a lot more work going on.

You're not sharing the same thing. Cuz the whole point about things like Netflix in many cases is that everyone gets to see the same video, right? It wouldn't work if every single video was different, right? That would make for a pretty ropey shared experience.

Asim Hussain: are they? But I think that's also speaking to the fact that, and I think there has been some pretty simplified, they call it oversimplified. I would also say there is a need for a simplified models here as well, but there are like simplified models. I don't wanna name a name, any names here, but there are simplified models that people have used for networking in the past, which have come under some criticism.

And I can imagine if you're Netflix, those models would overestimate your emissions just, I know you just mentioned about the end user divide, but there just overestimate your networking emissions.

Chris Adams: It's gonna make you look awful.

Asim Hussain: for Yeah. Whereas the reality is, I think that's, what're talking about basically use good models.

Chris Adams: Yeah, I think the, so the thing that's worth the thing,

Asim Hussain: Revolutionary statement there.

Chris Adams: The useful statement to reach for this is that all models are wrong, but some models are useful. So depending on what your resolution might be, it might be useful to use a quite high level model, say sustainable web design for Web design. But if you tried to use something like the sustainable web design model for Netflix might not give you particularly useful answers.

So that's the second principle. Okay, number three, go on. This one is you. I think.

Asim Hussain: Principle three. I love principles. Principle three, institutes energy efficiency requirements for devices and infrastructure, TVs, data centers, internet networks, home devices, et cetera, energy efficiency requirements. So it's like an energy star aspect.

Chris Adams: Yeah, it does sound a bit like that, and I think this is, I think this is interesting for two reasons. So first of all, various bodies like the GSMA, I think, or GESI, which is G E S I, and I think the site's best Targets Institute. They've issued a press release in maybe 2020, basically saying if we want to hit two degrees of warming, we need to basically half the energy consumption of the entire sector, um, by 2030, and that's about a 7% reduction year on year.

So that's what you have there. And uh, we don't have any kind of regulation for this kind of stuff. And in many cases there's a cadence for which when new bits of technology come in to allow you to scale some of this stuff. But back, for example, so like routers for example, when we look at this helpful diagram from Netflix, you can see a significant chunk is actually stuff which is on the subscriber's premises. So that's like your router in your house. And because they are always on and there's no real kind of sleep process, there is basically no relation there. And when that's taking up, maybe say a quarter of the impact they see here, that's like a, that's a space where you really would really would be helpful to have some kind of agreements on this.

The good news is there is actually some of this described in the next, uh, draft of WiFi. I'll have to share a link with this to allow things to scale down.

Asim Hussain: Oh really? That work is now actually becoming part of the standards.

Chris Adams: It's a really early draft, so there I've seen some discussions where people were saying, yeah, maybe we should have a way to scale some of this back when we're not push sending data over the wire.

You see the same thing with the deep connections as well. For some of the really fast connections, what you essentially have is when you have nothing being sent over the wire, to make sure that the system is very responsive. When data does come down the wire, you basically have messages saying, I've got nothing to send.

I've got nothing to send. I've got nothing to send. So you're still sending stuff even when you're not sending stuff. So again, it's because people haven't prioritized energy usage for this. So there's a bunch of scope here. So yeah, that's a fun one to talk about.

Asim Hussain: To drive that work, there needs to be kind of requirements for devices to be energy efficient. There's also a software, I just wanna be clear, like I don't think this is purely a hardware story. This is a software story. A lot of that story you just described it, uh, it could be implemented in the hardware, but it could also be software components to that standard as well.

And there's a lot of stuff about switching devices off like this. This stuff is a software driven aspect of it. And there's also like your TV is oftentimes taking in a stream of data and un-decoding it and putting it onto the display. That's a software. We're in that world where you actually, like the boundary between software and hardware is blurred because you could actually like implement a lot of the stuff as a hardware aspect of it.

But I think there's stuff there as well. You can implement energy efficiency stuff in in software as well. And just another random, my TV's hot every now and again. I go close to it with my hand and I'm like, wow, this is actually radiating a fair amount of heat. So I think that's something to think through.

But anyway.

Chris Adams: Yeah,

Asim Hussain: don't

Chris Adams: so,

Asim Hussain: of your TV as a radiator, but mine acts like a radiator for my house.

Chris Adams: So you heard it here first. If you want to reduce the environmental impact from your Netflix habits, use a smaller screen or turn on the big hot television that's attached to Asim's wall.

Asim Hussain: Watch more Netflix shows in winter and reduce your energy

Chris Adams: bills.

Yeah, there could be.

Asim Hussain: in summer. Get out in summer and enjoy the sunshine and stop watching Netflix in summer is basically what- that's advice from Netflix apparently, according to the Netflix report.

Chris Adams: Should we move to principle four? Assume before we get in trouble. Okay. Prioritize broad availability of low carbon and renewable energy for companies that operate large scale infrastructure and consumers since most streaming emissions come from inside the. Basically what they're saying is you need an entirely fossil free internet, which is what my organization cares about more than anything else in the world.


Asim Hussain: A fossil free internet broad of low carbon renew- and that's so important. I mean, when we talk about the pathways to achieving the only viable pathway to achieving the goals of 2030, very fast decarbonization of the electricity grid is pretty much the only path these days, isn't it?

I don't know if anybody talks seriously about another one.

Chris Adams: There is a bunch of really useful work that's been published by Transition Zero and Ember Climate about this. We can share links to this, but let's not dive in too deeply because we end up being an energy podcast rather than an a Green software podcast. All right, so next one, the environmental impact of refurbished tech.

This is a story from Back Market and uh, I think this is quite interesting. I've shared this Asim because Back Market, yes, they're in the business of selling refurb technology. So if you wanna buy an iPhone or an iPad or something, rather than buying it directly from apple.com, you can buy a refurb one from them instead.


Asim Hussain: I've actually never heard of them before, so it's really, yeah.

Chris Adams: Yeah, they're available in quite a few countries, but they're not the only people. They work to look, work a little like a kind of two-sided market. So they speak to smaller shops that do some of the refurbishing and they connect buyers to this. So they're like right in the middle. And I've ended up getting into habit of basically purchasing most of my electronics through them now simply because there's a really interesting set of stats and research on this, which basically shows that the carbon savings are really quite substantial. So this isn't just like a puff piece. This is actually work from the French from ADEME, which I'm not gonna try to pronounce in French, but more or less translates as the French environment and energy management agency.

They published a study last year to work out just how much of a impact having refurbished or circular electronics might actually be. And, uh, I've shared the table here from this report, from the actual link that's in here. And generally speaking, say, let's say you're gonna buy a secondhand smartphone and hold onto for two years versus hold onto a, bring a new one and having it for three years, there's every single saving here in terms of CO2 or water or e-waste, it's above 80 to 90%.

Asim Hussain: So it's just so I understand this number correctly. I'm seeing a table, and for one cell it's saying smartphones, and then the other

Chris Adams: Tablets and laptops and desktops. Yeah.

Asim Hussain: from a smartphone carbon perspective, I'm seeing the percentage, 91.6%. So what I believe that's telling me is, I will save 91.6% of the emissions. Why wouldn't it be a hundred percent?

It's a refurbished or something a little bit confusing in my mind.

Chris Adams: There's still an environmental impact from taking something and refurbishing and doing some work on it.

Asim Hussain: right, right. Okay. Yeah. So if I was to keep that, why'd they say two years and three years? That's a,

Chris Adams: I think the reason this is because that's what they typically look at when people purchase a new machine. They might not hold onto it for so long. There's actually a link to this really detailed report from ADEME, the French agency, where they go into do this like 200 pages long, where they talk about every single possible scenario of one year ownership versus five year ownership.

Are you buying a secondhand one that's two years old versus five years old? It's like every permutation you could imagine. But the high level stats here are basically the key takeaway is that buying something refurbished is a really effective consumer way to reduce the environmental impact of the electronics you have.

Or conversely, how guilty you feel about your gadgets habit, basically.

Asim Hussain: and I think it also speaks to the, I won't say fallacy, I will say the misunderstanding of the effectiveness of recycling. because recycling you really will not get anywhere close. I don't know what the statistic is, but it will be in nowhere close to 91.6% for a smartphone. Reselling something or just giving it to somebody else rather than throwing it away is one of the best things to do.

It's actually, I still, that's why I love the, I've gotta really gotta check out black market. Sorry, I just called it, I just, I called it black market cause that's what I first read when I saw it. It's the black market, but it's back market

Chris Adams: As in take back or give back or refur-. Yeah.

Asim Hussain: it black market accident many times from this point forward, but I think that's a really important aspect.

Cause I think one of the challenges people have for refurbished stuff is a lack of trust.

Chris Adams: Mm-hmm.

Asim Hussain: I buy stuff from eBay all the time, but I have it with this. Is it gonna, what's the mo- what I'm gonna get? Whereas getting some form of kind of trust out of interest do they offer guarantee or something when you buy it from Back Market

Chris Adams: they do. And where are we of turning this into a advert for them? Because we, cuz basical. I purchased all these. I think I've pretty much got my phone, my an iPad and my work laptop through this one company. They're not the only company doing this. In the UK there's an organization called Tech Buyer.

There's plenty of other ones, but I've been pretty happy with this and I've got a year warranty from this and basically because. Computers have, their speed is not improving at the rate they used to be. It's okay. So I've got a machine from 2020 that I bought secondhand and it's banging. It's really good.

It's, I'm really happy with that. And that's enough to last be for the next few years.

Asim Hussain: you just need a Web, what is it? 60, 70% of all apps is just Web. You're just browsing on the website. We've solved that. You've got a laptop that's good enough for that, and it'll be good enough for it for a long time.

Chris Adams: And it's just as well, because there's changes in the law coming down in particular, this is the next story that is somewhat related to this. One of the reasons that has been a problem with getting these things like devices lasting longer is that if a single thing broke it, you basically didn't have an easy way to get it repaired or replaced or anything like that.

And there's been some interesting new laws with a new right to repair law, which will require hardware makers to provide fixes for up to 10 years. From new, new electronics. So that's so much further for this, uh, basically the, it's still being drafted to some, when it comes to actually being implemented in different countries.

So just because it's plaster, either European, European level, you still need someone to implement the interface, as it were in Germany or France or stuff like that. But generally speaking, yeah, things like, uh, hardware, cell phones, tablets. The goal is to have things at least five years and up to 10 years of there, and also providing clear access to all the bits that you might need to repair these.

Asim Hussain: This is kind of like, I think iFixit. Is it, are they a non-profit or a for-profit? I can't remember, but this is, this is kinda what iFixit has been trying to do, which is figure out how to repair things. When manufacturers have provided no information about how to repair it, and they're just like smashing up 50 iPhones just to figure out how to repair an iPhone, and then they're publishing the information online.

But this is saying, this is actually gonna have to be law. Oh, it looks like there's still some negotiation that needs to be done here, but it'll be law for organizations to affect even beyond the guarantee period. It same between for five to 10 years. Five to 10 years. You have to make something, somethings repairable. That's amazing.

Chris Adams: I know it's pretty cool, right?

Asim Hussain: This is, this is how the world used to be. The world used to be you. Anything. I don't feel old. I do not feel that old, but I do remember repairing things. Repairing things like a normal electric thing was a normal thing to do. You went to repair shops and you got things repaired and you brought them home.

And these days it's almost impossible to repair anything. And the times when you do go and try and repair something, the cost of repair is so much higher. Not higher, just almost the point where you like another 20% more, I can buy something new and then you get that world. Whereas I love the idea of whole cottage industry of repairing things has almost been lost.

And now that generative AI is gonna take the rest of our jobs, maybe we can just, maybe our jobs will be, maybe the only jobs will be left will be repairing the machines, which the AIs need to survive. Maybe we'll be in service of the AIs to repair the machines for them. Okay. There we go.

Chris Adams: Topical. I like it.

Asim Hussain: we go.

Chris Adams: Okay. This is the thing. It's, we'll see how it shapes through. Before. For folks who are more interested in this, there's a really nice podcast from the Restart Project because last month there was London Repair Week where there's a bunch of interviews with people who actually are doing repairs of electronics and talk about how it's changed or what some of the trends might be.

We should share a link to that cause it's quite fun. It's quite a nice kind of uplifting and happy story. When usually a lot of things around climate and technology can be a little bit hard work. All right.

Asim Hussain: This is interesting. Do you think that there's? As Moore's Law and all this other stuff, it's not slowing down. I don't know. There's other things that are happening. The law's not that simple, but as technology moves, is the fast paced nature of technology, the thing that's made things harder to repair and now that maybe technology will move slower, or you just mentioned your laptop's gonna, it gives more room, more breathing space for people to try and repair things.

Chris Adams: I don't think it's that. I think it's more a case of business models. Right. So even one of the things you did see, cuz in America recently passed a recent right to repair law themselves and organizations which have been moving, who have been pushing back against this one of the tactics. So if. Basically said as well, okay, what we're gonna do, we care about the sustainability of things, but you can only ever return things to us.

So therefore we, we are gonna capture the entire value chain ourselves rather than share it with anyone else. And that's very much a deliberate decision that some people have made to say we are gonna be, and if we get devices from anyone else, we're gonna either withhold the parts, which means you can't create a whole kind of secondary market around this.

You'll see things like that. And I think this is one of the issues. It's very much a case of. How people designed things. Because even if you look at, say a hardware point of view, there are examples like the framework Laptop in America, which is essentially a laptop designed to be the opposite of say, an Apple MacBook, which honestly I own cuz I'm stuck using Apple devices.

But basically this is, this is the thing.

Asim Hussain: You're in the ecosystem and that's how it's designed.

Chris Adams: Exactly. So these are, this is very much a function of the, in my view, the business model for this. So even if I wanted to have some things which were not the same, the fact that I am locked in using the same operating system means that I'm not able to do that. And that kind of integration isn't really addressed with this right now.

And I feel like in many cases it's case of which feudal landlord do you want? Do you want Microsoft? Do you want Google or do you want Apple? You can do everything yourself, but then you're open and vulnerable against all the bandits and everything like that. But then you have to realize, except that, yeah, maybe the feudal landlord has shareholders to return to, and the priorities are making sure those guys are happy rather than you are necessary happy.

So that's some of the things you have to worry about really.

Asim Hussain: Well, I think it's interesting. I think there's parallels here between the kind of the closed source and open source ecosystems as well. It's like those are huge, like what you just described about you can only return products to us is a closed source system. I think there's definitely cases where the open source model has been more successful than the closed source model. I'd also probably argue this case where the closed source model has been more successful than opensource model as well

Chris Adams: I don't think we are gonna resolve this one on this call. We see not this one. I think there's plenty going either way for a bunch of this. Should we look at the next story of this one here?

Asim Hussain: go on. Yeah.

Chris Adams: Okay. All right. So Microsoft wants to export grid interactive Dublin data center setup. So this is a story that I think is interesting from the perspective of kind of green software developers because it's worked by Microsoft who have basically working with a power management specialist called Eaton to build kind of grid interactive UPSs into their data centers. So this basically means that rather than just having backup energy, which just sits there doing nothing, the idea is, is that the backup battery could supply it into the grid if necessary.

So this basically allows you to kind of smooth out, say spikes in demand or stuff like that. And you can see it as a kind of compliment to renewable energy sources being somewhat variable and at times intermittent. And what they're doing is they, this is about them saying, we've got this setup. One, we're gonna do it in lots of other places, and we're gonna start with Ireland because Ireland only gets maybe 35% of their power from renewable sources, but there is a really aggressive growth in data centers plant in Ireland, or that we've seen over the last few years. So this is actually quite an interesting one. I think that the person that might have been related to some of this work a chap called Conor Kelly, he published a paper about this idea of balancing power systems or data centers.

I think Asim this is my, uh, you used to work at Microsoft. I reckon you might have some reckons on this.

Asim Hussain: Yeah, I know Conor. In fact, we should probably reach out to him, see if he wants to come on the podcast. Conor, if you're listening as you as of course you always listen to our podcast. Welcome to, to come on. Yeah. Conor's, he's been in this, I wouldn't be surprised this, this looks like it's got Conor's fingerprints all over it.

Yeah, so I think for, for my understanding, so just so I'm gonna break it down for everybody, so. Data centers have a lot of backup power supplies. Sometimes actually diesel, but they sometimes actually are battery powered, sometimes actually hydrogen batteries, all, all sorts of stuff. But this is a battery powered backup.

And the point here is can you reverse the energy back out onto the grid? And therefore be like effectively like a short term battery act as a battery for the grid and therefore make money. Which I think is a really not make, necessarily make, maybe, probably do or not make money, but I'm sure they have other relationships with the utility providers like a, I dunno, reduced fee or something like that.

That's interesting. And I think it's also interesting cause I remember I was talking to somebody ages ago in this space about carbon aware computing and I was talking about shifting compute. And they raised the point, well if all of our data centers have batteries, like why not just shift the energy? Cuz if you shift compute, it's like if you take the opposite side, it's like you're shifting energy.

So we've got batteries, shift the energy. And I was like, huh, that's actually quite a great idea. Actually just shift the energy from France to, well, wherever.

Chris Adams: So this is the work that I think is most interestingly demonstrated by the work on some, I think Ecovisor is the name of this kind of series of projects where the idea was that rather than just having a rather software just knowing that there's power coming in, software has some idea about what quality of power that might be saying, this is the grid power and this is the carbon intensity of this. Or here's renewable energy that, that you might have attached to a data center. And this is what the carbon intensity of this is. And this is how much battery power is available and how many hours of battery is available.

And also what the kind of intensity, carbon intensity of that might be. Cuz if you were to charge that battery when there's loads of wind on the grid, then you've got really green energy, which in many ways may be greener than the grid power that you have. So if you wanted to say optimize for the greenest possible power, you might choose to only run on say, battery when the grid I is particularly high. If you are able to figure out where you are pulling the power in from. If you're saying, don't feed me grid power, but please feed me power from the battery and from onsite solar onsite renewables, then you are able to control the actual power going into the system.

And there is a, the thing that's really cool, I did a talk about this cuz I was so excited about it when I discovered it at FOSDEM. This idea of kind of virtualizing and different kinds of power, I think is one thing that if I wasn't doing what I was doing, I would try to build a service and build a company around it basically.

Asim Hussain: Virtualizing. Describe what you mean.

Chris Adams: So, you know, we have virtualized compute, pay for compute, storage, and network. Yeah, it's a big physical machine, but it's exposed to you in the form of a computer, which is just the right size. Just has enough memory. Just has enough of this right. Now if you know that, say your computing job don't need to happen right now, they're not time sensitive. Then you could say, okay, I only wanna be fed on variable power, for example, renewable power. I don't need it to happen, come from the grid because I value that it's greener and it's cheap more than it being available all the time and dispatchable. And I think that people who actually have batteries inside data centers, I think people will figure out how to turn that into a product that you can sell as make available inside this.

Because I think that's a kind of value added thing that you could quite easily add to cloud compute to just say, by the extra green stuff inside it, which you know for sure has been come from the power that stored at certain times. Yeah. You could segment now the power that way.

Asim Hussain: Cause I've always wondered about that, about battery, cuz if you're a wind farm. When I sell electricity, I can then sell like a rec and I, that's like how you signal that my electricity was green,

Chris Adams: Mm-hmm.

Asim Hussain: but if I have a battery on the grid, I'm currently, I know the grid is 50% green, 50% fossil, and I'm storing the energy, like the, like I know that electricity is like half green, but no one else would know.

That's what I mean by virtualized. So if I was to then send that back out onto the grid, I could then give. like a half-rec here somewhere, or, I dunno how that would work actually.

Chris Adams: You just don't decouple the greenness from the power. That's a whole kind of silly market construct that only happened because for historical reasons, right? If you actually just treat the power like it really is, yeah, then you could totally do stuff like this. And that is the premise behind this Ecovisor concept, which I think is super exciting and even has an API to implement.

Asim Hussain: Oh, eco. Yeah.

Chris Adams: Yeah, exactly. If you virtualize the compute, why don't you virtualize the power? And that allows you to purchase things differently because I think there are people who would basically say, okay, I'm using a bunch of cloud services. If there's a way for me to just purchase a kind of greener quality of power from this for certain parts than I would.

Cuz that allows you some more tools as a designer of services, for example, if you know that like then maybe I can pay for say, eight hours of definitely green power, for example. Then I can redesign the rest of my time to either, I can redesign my compute to work within that budget, or I can say, I know I don't even have to see what I mean.

Yeah. You could do a bunch. You could come up with all these new system designs. Yeah.

Asim Hussain: completely not thinking about recs in the slightest

Chris Adams: Yeah.

Asim Hussain: just, thinking about the whole, just like blank. Yeah. Interesting.

Chris Adams: This is also why the discussions and if you look on the kind of, you look at the trends for grids, there's a huge amount of battery storage looking to be connected to the grid, both in the UK and in America. For example, masses. And it's growing so fast. So I think.

Asim Hussain: As in it's there, but it's not physically connected to the grid. What do you mean? Or do you mean?

Chris Adams: It's being connected or people who, cause you need to apply for permits for a bunch of this stuff. It's basically being permitted and being fit into the grid. So traditionally you might have had relied on say things like open cycle gas turbines, which have really this stuff. You as batteries come into this, that means that the kind of marginal intensity was you you don't have the same signals, basically, so you can't be sure that it's gonna be open cycle gas turbines that are powering that marginal power now. So a lot of the assumptions we make about marginal intensity may not be the same, which is why many cases open some of this up. And if you just look at the location based amount, then I think it's actually an exciting new horizon opening or opening up to us. And I reckon Conor's probably got something to say about this, cuz I, yeah, this paper I read, I thought, this sounds super cool cuz it basically uses data centers like CDNs, but for power essentially in the same way that CDN relieves pressure on network by rather than you congesting commonly used channels with lots of the same things being sent over, you're just getting it from somewhere nearby. So you can think of transmission in the same way. If you have a way to reduce the need to fetch power from somewhere else, by getting it from somewhere nearby, then you've essentially taken this idea of a CDN, but you've applied it to grid services.

And I think that is actually, there are so many places, there's so much overlap in this stuff. There really is, and. I think more people should be discussing this cuz cloud is utility. Once you start thinking about these things as utilities, then yeah, all these ideas which have been developed for decades in other fields become applicable in our world as well.

Asim Hussain: I'll just say one thing, and I think we were talking about gang Adrian Cockcroft in, but I listened to his talk at QCon last week and one really interesting statistic he said, which I thought was fascinating. But if you add up all the power from all the major clouds, it actually becomes one of the top 10 energy utilities in the world.

Chris Adams: Well, it's not just that there's a crazy figure I saw recently. So if you look at, say, which companies have been purchasing all the kind of corporate green energy, power purchase agreements in Europe, right? Amazon is responsible for 19.9% of all the PPAs, the capacity. In the last 10 years, so 20 to 13, Google is 7.4% and that's like the next two largest organizations are Alcoa, which makes aluminium and Norsk Hydro, which is basically, it's really eye-opening seeing these numbers.

So these are the stats from Wind Europe, and I will find a link for this. I didn't realize that nearly 30% of all of the PPAs, the power purchase agreements for renewable power has come from big tech firms.

Asim Hussain: Which is just to be clear, you're not saying that's 30% of all energy or 30% of all. Energy, but 30% of all like this, these what these things called power, which we won't go into, which is still a significant amount just to go to some tech company perhaps how belittling of me just to go through a couple of tech companies.

But you know, aluminum I've always heard is like quite significant.

Chris Adams: Yeah. Turning bauxite into aluminum is incredibly energy intensive. It's in terms of density of load versus the area used. The only thing that is greater than it is data centers.

Asim Hussain: Oh, alright.

Chris Adams: Yeah, or maybe Bitcoin mining, but you can, they probably count as a data center as well. But basically, yeah, incredibly dense load, which is why you see this, and this really spelled out to me just how big a player some of these large companies are now in the kind of shifting of the grid and how that might impact what we do as developers and people building digital services.

Asim Hussain: why like things like grid, what are we calling it? I've forgotten the term Grid

Chris Adams: Interactive is what they.

Asim Hussain: Yeah, grid interactive batteries. Yeah. That's why it's so important. Yeah. That's why it could potentially could be quite

Chris Adams: significant.

You say potentially one of the reasons you can get the idea that people are doing this just outta the goodness of their own heart, right? And the linked story basically says they're not just doing it out of the goodness of their own heart. They're doing it because it makes financial sense a lot of the time.

So when you are a larger organization, you do a big power purchase agreement like this, you're gonna get power way cheaper than other people because you're buying in so much bulk. So yeah, you get to say that you are green and everything like that, but

Asim Hussain: I gurantee if you are creating utility scale kind of grid interactive batteries, you are getting a better deal. There is definitely a financial, and I wanna say like one of the things that's quite surprising to me actually was to find out that the interrelation between gas and renewables, which is an unfortunate kind of temporary, in the decarbonization of the grid, you do need to be able to create electricity very quickly when the wind dies down.

And currently for a lot of places that's now gas. Whereas that's why kind of battery solutions are so important, cuz we don't want that to be gas. We want that to be non fossil solutions.

Chris Adams: Yeah, basically if you can find a way to avoid burning fossil fuels to quickly respond to changes on the grid, you need to generate power quickly or reduce power quickly, and this is what some of this stuff makes possible, essentially. So you can either reduce demand from data centers or feed power in instead of the gas.


Asim Hussain: know how, how, how much we try every single episode to not be a podcast about the energy system. We end up being a podcast talking about the energy system.

Chris Adams: We're talking about distributed systems in my view, and like the internet and the grid are, there's lots of similarities between these two things. So anyway, we can move away cuz we're talking about the idea that if you are prepared to be flexible on this, then you can get paid quite a lot of money for this.

And that doesn't mean like it's okay for you to be doing this stuff. But if you say that you're only doing this for the goodness of your own heart, there may be changes in the law that mean that you're not really allowed to say that now. And this is some of the new stories. There's next story actually.

Asim Hussain: The EU Commission's, anti-green washing law proposal.

Chris Adams: Yeah, so this was published, I think end of March, was the draft version of this, which basically says that, uh, later on this year, pretty much all the, there'll be moratorium on new kind of certification schemes, if anything, marking something as green. And also you'll only be allowed to use a certain set of really explicit, like the greenhouse gas protocol and stuff like that.

They're gonna say every single claim has to match up to this stuff here. So there's gonna be some really much more stringent stuff, and there'll be like injunctive things saying that if you don't, we can basically force you with the full force of the law to stop you talking about power being green, for example, or things being presented or things being ocean friendly, for example.

Asim Hussain: Is that driving things more to certain well defined terms? Like academic terms? If you say the word when you say you're a hundred percent powered by renewables, I'm like, okay, let's break that down for a second. What do you mean?

Chris Adams: Yeah,

Asim Hussain: You know, like what does that

Chris Adams: so the early version I saw in the stats basically is quite nerdy in terms of it's using all the kind of recent technical language, and there is probably gonna be a challenge in terms of how people communicate that because the good example of this is Ireland once again, cuz we're talking about Ireland anyway, right?

What we saw before this was that the advertising agency in Ireland, Basically banned energy companies using the term a hundred percent renewable for power in Ireland, because Ireland only has 35% of its power coming from renewables. So therefore it can't possibly be a hundred percent right. And it has implications for all the people running data centers in Ireland, right?

So suddenly where people have been talking about, oh yeah, our cloud super green, a hundred percent green. Now you've had the laws basically saying, no, that's not allowed to, you can't make those change. And this go next story has a similar thing to this cuz you are seeing a similar story in the UK the Digital Markets Competition and Consumer Bill is going through law, and this is a bit like the GDPR.

The idea is that if you are making misleading green claims and you continue to make them, when you're told to stop, you'll be liable to finds of up to 10% of global turnover for misleading green claims. So this might explain here.

Asim Hussain: say anything about green at all from this point

Chris Adams: I think this is the thing that was interesting cuz back to the world of cloud recently Amazon used to have a hundred percent sustainable as one phrase that was used.

But in the last year there was a change to say up to 90 x percent renewable instead. And I was wondering why they made these changes, cuz Google say we're a hundred percent renewable. Microsoft says we're a hundred percent renewable. Amazon has been really weirdly coy about this and I wonder if it's because they saw this lawsuit coming through. Realize that even if you are following the letter of the law and the way that you know, if you purchase enough renewable credits, you get to say your stuff is green. If it's seen as misleading to consumers, then you're still not allowed to. It may be that like organizations, they were being a bit careful about this stuff because yeah, there's a real shift in this stuff happening basically.

Asim Hussain: Well I welcome this. I think one of the challenges that I see in our space, and it's something that I've railed up, talked about thing before, is the different languages that organizations use. Like I was picking something up the other day. I think it was some food and it had written on it carbon negative at the top, which is a term which has no legal definition, carbon. And underneath it in smaller writing, it wrote climate positive. And I was like, okay, so it's carbon negative and climate positive. What do both of those things mean? And it's like so much left to interpretation. Whereas if we landed on, you know, like we work in standards in the foundation, if you land on a very standard definition of this stuff, I think that's really beneficial to the end user.

I think yes, it might take some time for them to learn the language that we are talking about, but they will bother to learn it cuz finally when somebody says something, they'll understand what it means.

Chris Adams: Yeah, I agree. I think this is positive. I think it possibly suggests a problem for yourself as a director of the Green Software Foundation, and myself, a director of the Green Web Foundation. So we, we have to might have to end up with a much less catchy sounding name of our respective organizations, Asim.

Asim Hussain: Oh my word. Yeah. Okay. Whatever. I'll take it.

Chris Adams: Okay.

Alright, so let's, we're just coming up to the end. Should we wrap up? Are there any events or things that we should be pointing people to or is there a list of up coming conferences we might tell people about?

Asim Hussain: Probably as we get close to Earth Week, there's a bunch of meetups being launched through the foundation. People are running a bunch of things around Earth Week, but yeah, we'll talk on, talk about it at a future episode.

Chris Adams: For next week. All right, then. That's it for our news and events roundup for this part, all the resources in this episode and more about the Green, Software Foundation are in the show description below. If you're looking at this podcast, and you can also visit podcast.greensoftware.foundation In your browser.

And if you did enjoy this show, please consider leaving a review on Spotify, apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. And your feedback is very valuable. It helps us reach a wider audience and hopefully helps improve the content of this show. So thanks again for listening, and we'll see you on the next episode.

So bye from me.

Asim Hussain: And bye for me.

Chris Adams: Hey everyone. Thanks for listening. Just a reminder to follow Environment Variables on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. And please do leave a rating and review if you like what we're doing. It helps other people discover the show, and of course, we'd love to have more listeners.

To find out more about the Green Software Foundation, please visit greensoftware.foundation. That's greensoftware.foundation In any browser. Thanks again and see you in the next episode.