Energy conservation and alternative energy strategies are expected to grow in importance in the coming year. Val Haskell, director of Environmental Sustainability Solutions at Hitachi Consulting, shares her list of sustainability predictions for 2010:

  1. Energy management will increase as a priority. Energy price volatility will continue to threaten corporate bottom lines and the two key consumers of energy: buildings and data centers will be scrutinized. Energy management software will be implemented at more and more sites to get this spending under control.
  2. LEED evolves. LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design), the U.S. green building standard, will have to evolve and become more rigorous to defend its value to buildings. They will modify their practices to include post-construction building performance to maintain LEED status.
  3. Public-private partnerships will build out the new transmission networks for wind and solar energy to take the energy generated in remote locations and transport it to the metropolitan areas. Think of the famous oilman, T. Boone Pickens, or Hunt Energy partnering with the State of Texas to build out a transmission network that carries wind generated energy from the Panhandle to Dallas.
  4. Battery technology will enter into the equivalent of the space race between the U.S. and Russia back in the 1960s. This battery technology will impact car production, consumer electronics and more. Expect a revolutionary breakthrough in early 2011 and production by 2015.
  5. New regulations, Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Index and the Obama’s Environmental Executive Order drive wide-scale adoption of carbon reporting and carbon costs become part of financial reporting. The reporting standards normalize much like what GAAP did for accounting. Carbon has a cost that impacts business and green businesses increase in value while the inverse is true; brown businesses lose stock value and have a harder time getting investment dollars. (Editor’s note: read related article, “The U.S. Government, Wal-Mart, and You.”)
  6. Climate change will become a high-profile security issue and its implications to coastal areas, food supply, and severe weather will be part of military preparedness. The U.S. government will solidly transition to identify, plan, budget and prepare our military for security concerns related to environmental issues.
  7. Public infrastructure upgrades to green. The aging U.S. public infrastructure, bridges, traffic systems, sewers, water mains, etc., is long overdue for upgrades. Improvements can now be made greener than ever before in ways that increase safety and water quality and reduce traffic pollution. Federal buildings also make a serious effort to go green, reducing energy consumption and square footage.
  8. Water becomes a headline act in 2010. Climate change will increase weather severity with some areas parched and other areas drenched. Access to plenty of fresh water will be a determining factor for corporate relocations and product decisions. Water will be managed more like a precious commodity, like oil, with similar measurement systems for verifying volumes and pressures.
  9. Agribusiness’ focus will be food for 9 billion people. It is a blessing for agribusiness and a curse: it’s a blessing because the demand is high for a solution to feed 50 percent more people in 40 years without increasing the land area farmed. It’s a curse because agribusinesses have not had the technical breakthrough that will make this possible. Ambivalence about engineered seeds will remain. In parallel, small, local farms will continue to grow and have their best year ever.
  10. Cities jockey for green positioning. Urban districts will see green initiatives as a determinant in attracting the best, the brightest and the affluent. Cities will upgrade quality of life amenities, tackle traffic, pollution, and market their “green living” credentials.

Haskell’s colleague Rob Farris also noted that one hot area under the analytics theme is business intelligence solutions related to measuring/monitoring sustainability. There are many drivers of this that are coming together, such as customer demand, regulations, cost volatility, cost of GHG (through pending Cap and trade or taxes), etc. Farris introduced this concept in his article “Energy Intelligence” earlier this year, and this is the area that he intends to write about exclusively in 2010.

Check out additional insights from Val Haskell and Rob Farris in the Strategy forum of Information Management’s discussion boards and chime in with your observations and opinions.

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