Standards Go Green


The areas of green technology, clean energy and energy-efficiency present boundless opportunities for standards development

Imagine a community in which nearly all the buildings are automated to achieve optimal energy efficiency and can communicate with other buildings to help with security and emergency response. The community, in effect, becomes a network that can respond to the needs of one building or a group of them—offering enhanced safety, convenience and energy savings for all.

Sound like some utopian fantasy? It’s not. In fact, a technical standard is being developed under the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) that could do just that. The IEEE P1888 Working Group (‘P’ for an approved IEEE SA project) is developing a UGCCNet (Ubiquitous Green Community Control Network) standard that will specify data links between various devices and systems, thereby helping operators, community administrators, public services, government departments and individuals  manage the systems remotely.  This standard would help enable sensors, surveillance monitors, heating and cooling systems, lighting systems, fire-fighting systems, and consumer electronics to be controlled to address the energy or safety needs of the community.

This is just one of many green and energy-efficient technical standards in development under the IEEE SA umbrella that will make huge differences in the way we live and interact with the world.

Other standards for green technology being been developed under the IEEE SA affect a range of solutions from big-picture alternative energies, to the design of tiny but ubiquitous computer chips, to building a more energy-efficient Internet. There’s the IEEE P1595 draft standard for quantifying greenhouse gas emission credits from small hydro and wind power projects, IEEE P1801 for the design of low-powered integrated circuits that could go into a wide range of products, and IEEE P802.3az for an Energy Efficient Ethernet that utilizes a “low-power idle” technology to save energy used by networking equipment.

“The latter”, says Michael Bennett, senior network engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “is the first project in the history of Ethernet aimed specifically at reducing energy use.” Bennett is also the chair of the IEEE P802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet Task Force. The standard should be finalized in September 2010.

In addition, there is a multitude of IEEE standards—either finalized or in development—for metering the energy management of industrial and commercial power systems (IEEE P3001.8 and P3005.7), efficient electrical distribution (IEEE 1547 series), and numerous smart grid and smart metering standards.

In the areas of climate change and greenhouse-gas management, IEEE Earth Observations SCC 40 formed a standards study group to discuss issues and identify future standards projects. A new project—IEEE P1809 “Draft Guide for Electric-Sourced Transportation Infrastructure”—is in development.

Greener Opportunities

“A lot of companies are interested in being greener and being more energy efficient,” says Cherry Tom, IEEE SA’s project initiations manager, who is always on the lookout for emerging and green technologies. “There are a lot of opportunities in green technology for developing standards, and we’re trying to find the right standards to work on.”

Those standards don’t have to be as visionary as the UGCCNet community network standard. Some of the most effective green technology standards deal with what could be considered everyday energy saving opportunities. And some are already in use today.

Consider the IEEE 1621 standard, which specifies interface elements for the power control of electronics—like the energy saving interface on today’s computers. This standard alone has saved a countless amount of energy.

There’s also IEEE 1680, which specifies how to quantify the green features of products (originally computers). It is now being expanded into a family of standards that addresses imaging equipment (scanners and fax machines, for example) and TVs.

The IEEE 1680 standard came about through the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a system that helps purchasers in the public and private sectors select electronic products based on their environmental attributes. As EPEAT was being developed, the stakeholders realized the need for a standard to assess the environmental attributes of computers, and came to the IEEE SA to develop one, and IEEE 1680 was developed.

Today, the computer portion of the original IEEE 1680 standard has been converted to IEEE 1680.1. IEEE 1680 remains, serving as the umbrella standard for what will become a series of related standards.  In the future, IEEE P1680.2 will address imaging equipment, and IEEE P1680.3 will be a way to evaluate the environmental attributes of TVs—so they can also be evaluated on the EPEAT site.

“It would be good for people to come in to IEEE to develop a standard like EPEAT did,” says Cherry Tom. “Not all [standards] groups follow a comprehensive standards development process.”

In fact, The IEEE SA offers a number of mechanisms that can be leveraged in a tailored way to fit a given technology community’s specific needs.

Global Outlook

The IEEE SA also recognizes that green technology is a worldwide concern. “I see a lot of organizations interested in green technology, like the International Organization of Standards (ISO) environmental standards, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) communications and computer technologies, and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has a number of standards relating to electric grid networks,” says Tom.

The IEEE SA can work with these organizations to co-develop a standard that bears a dual logo of both the organizations, thereby providing even stronger credibility, or produce part of a standard that may be applicable to one country or region. “IEEE standards are not limited to the United States,” says Tom. “The IEC in the past has adopted a number of IEEE standards.”

The IEEE P1888 standard for UGCCNet, for example, is being developed in China by the Beijing Internet Institute (BII), China Telecom and others.

The IEEE SA continues to work extensively with groups in Asia, North America and other parts of the world that are striving to improve the energy efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of information technology (IT), electronics equipment and manufacturing practices. Through the New Technologies effort, IEEE SA is both facilitating convergence in these areas and driving innovation.

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