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GigaOm: The importance of time for energy and money
One of the most important but overlooked issues in promoting low emissions technologies is that unless they are simply better than what they replace, it will be hard to get the broader society to adopt them widely. This means that these products need to be designed to deliver multiple benefits, and often the single most valuable added benefit they can bring is saving people’s time…
Time is energy
Another truth that follows from basic physics is that speeding up physical processes usually requires more energy. So if you want to push a vehicle through a fluid more rapidly, the power needed goes up as the square of the velocity (as Saul Griffith points out in the Foreword to Cold Cash, Cool Climate). If you want to ship a package overnight, it will use substantially more energy than if you ship by ground. And if you travel by air instead of train, you’ll use much more fuel.
One way out of this bind is to use information technology (IT), which allows us to redefine the task to require less physical energy even though we are accomplishing that ultimate goal more efficiently and quickly. You can use IT to ship information directly (moving bits instead of atoms), in which case transmission is almost instantaneous, or you can use it to better plan your activities, so you reduce your need for physical travel. An example of the latter is the solar powered BigBelly trash compactor for outdoor applications, which not only compacts the waste five times, but also sends a text message when full, so the truck knows when to pick it up. These combined innovations reduce truck travel much more than 80 percent!
Time has value and good solutions embrace that fact; otherwise they won’t become pervasive. It’s hard to value time in our personal lives, but we all know it is limited, in the near term by life’s complexity and ultimately by our finite lifespan. That’s true for businesses, too, whose biggest cost is usually payroll. That means solutions that save time AND reduce pollution will sell like gangbusters.
This essay is the third of a series of four appearing this week on GigaOm. It draws from material in Jonathan Koomey’s latest book, Cold Cash, Cool Climate: Science-based Advice for Ecological Entrepreneurs, which is being released by Analytics Press on February 15, 2012.
Read the article (by Jonathan Koomey)