The Intersection of Energy and IT

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-01-20 Print this article Print

Broadband technology is the single best bet for reducing driving time.

With my 25th college reunion approaching this summer, theres a sense of having come full circle. My goal as a Carter-era undergraduate was to take on the problem of energy; now, a quarter-century later, more than 500 IEEE Fellows rank "energy development" at the head of their lists of problems demanding technology input during the next five years.

That IEEE report, accessible at, takes a commendably broad view of the needs and opportunities that could focus the forces of innovation during the coming year. If it has one flaw, though, its in putting too much emphasis on what engineers are able to build and too little on the need to change what people want.

Its one thing to say, "No one needs a Cadillac Escalade," to quote one survey respondent. Its another to note, as the report fails to do, that broadband technology is the single best bet for reducing drive time, even if entertainment is more of a driver for broadband demand.

Having been a full-time telecommuter for 14 years, Ive evolved with the technology: from telephone and fax, to intermittent e-mail, to persistent dial-up connection with Notes or Outlook, and finally to DSL. At last, the technology is pretty much transparent. There are few remaining excuses not to evaluate broader use of remote (not necessarily home-based) office sites.

Being in the Los Angeles area, I get regular reminders of how much time it wastes to move 160 pounds of wet meat from one place to another when all one really wants to move is information. When the state of Washingtons Energy Office tested part-time telecommuting in 1995, it found that each telecommuter saved 1,500 kilowatt-hours per year in reduced transportation, while adding back only one-eighth that amount in added home energy use—not to mention saving 42 hours per year of commuting time. Here in Los Angeles, I could easily burn 42 hours a month if I were working in the center of the city, instead of from an office suite about a 6-minute walk from my home.

By all means, read the whole IEEE report. Ive mentioned only the intersection of two of its topics. But its an intersection filled with opportunity.

Tell me about your telecommuting efforts at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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