Friday, 4 June 2010

ICT companies remain silent on California’s Prop 16

For those who don’t know, there’s currently a battle going on in California over control of clean energy provision.  It will have significant impact on IT companies, but they are being strangely quiet. 

The issue centres around Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) a law in several US states that allows local governments to purchase power to sell to residents and to build their own electricity generation facilities.  It means that they can become competitors to private utilities and hence have some influence over the source of energy and the move to clean power.

Now Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is putting huge amounts of money into sponsoring Proposition 16, an amendment to the Californian Constitution that would require a two thirds majority before a public agency could form a CCA.  If the proposition is passed it would severely limit the ability of local authorities to have any influence over the power market and hamper the move to clean energy and technology.

But IT companies are noticeably absent from the debate, as Greenpeace pointed out in a recent article.  Many have a vested interest in the growth of clean technology and are also very aware that open competition is the best route to innovation.  But the likes of Google, HP and Oracle, resident in California, have not only said little on the subject but don’t seem to have objected to the fact that trade organisations to which they belong are supporting the proposition.

 

I’ve made the point in the past that ICT companies should be more vocal in their support for a move to a greener environment.  It’s not just about PR, there’s significant business for IT companies enabling the rest of the economy become more sustainable.  But there continues to be reluctance by many companies to be explicit in their views, at least at the local level. 

To be fair, as Greenpeace points out, many IT companies recently wrote to President Obama asking for greater consumer access to energy use data from utilities, but the concern doesn’t seem to extend to on-the-ground involvement in the Californian debate.  Given that this is a battle between well-funded private industry (PG&E is said to have put $46m into the campaign) and taxpayers money, anything that ICT companies could do would have helped, and potentially paid for itself in the long-run with community clean-tech projects.

But there’s little time left.  The ballot takes place next Tuesday.

© The Green IT Review

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