Dear TechAways readers,
I’m Nathalie Rubin-Delanchy, Cambre’s in-house energy geek, editing this week’s newsletter. I’m sure you’ve all been glued to your radiators since Sunday and feeling particularly grateful that we’ve got a reliable energy system keeping us toasty. So, since I’ve got your cosy ear, here are three things to know about how tech and energy work together:
- Tech has revolutionised the energy landscape. From batteries to smart grids and connected devices, tech has enabled the energy system to become greener, better optimised, and far more efficient.
- As tech develops, the energy system gets even better. Think millions of EVs that can serve as mobile battery storage, balancing our grid to keep electricity supplies stable.
- Data centres consume A LOT of energy. The yearly combined power usage of Big Tech is about as much as New Zealand’s. That’s why tech giants are investing heavily in green energy – the FT published a useful article on this earlier this week (commented on below).
The EU will officiate the energy and tech marriage with the release this summer of its Fit for 55 Package, which will focus among others on the twin transitions (green and digital). Until then, we’ll keep you busy with regular energy insights in TechAways. Oh, and in case you’re missing our #BrusselsCalling media panels, fear not. Nearly a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, journo-turned-Cambre-CEO Victoria Main will be discussing media lessons learned from lockdown with, among others, FT Brussels chief Sam Fleming, AFP correspondent Alex Pigman, Jack Parrock at Euronews…. Watch this space!
Net-zero for net-tech [Financial Times]
We’ve established that Big Tech uses a lot of energy, and you’ve probably seen the flashy PR campaigns where these giants talk about their net-zero goals – but how is it actually changing the energy system? Well, in the US new installations of wind and solar reached record levels in 2020 despite little federal assistance, partly because these tech companies have substantially accelerated the market for renewables. In turn, this led US utility companies to increase their sustainability commitments as well, showing that consumers have great power in the green transition. This shows that public opinion can genuinely push the needle on climate ambition. Greta would be proud. ✊🌿
At a time when looking down memory lane has turned into a full-time hobby; this Myspace reincarnation is everything the internet needs. An 18-year-old German has created Spacehey, a Myspace look-alike with all the glorious nostalgia you remember. Users are also able to embed content from Spotify and YouTube and hyperlink to social media profiles. Spacehey is also more proactive than other social media sites on moderating hate speech and harassment. If you want to indulge in a bit of nostalgia, we suggest giving it a try. And if you’re wondering how an 18-year-old was able to re-create a social media site that lost its popularity more than 10 years ago…the creator is quoted saying that he learned about the site from “older friends and the internet” – ouch.
Space wine 🍇 > space travel 🚀 [The Verge]
The commercialisation of space has taken a delicious turn. European startup, Space Cargo Unlimited, has been studying the effect of microgravity on the production of wine. After shipping a crate of Bordeaux to the International Space Station in 2019 – the startup has just received its latest package that contains the core structure of grape vines back from space. The goal is to figure out how to grow new grape vines that are more resistant to changes in the climate. We think this is an extremely worthy use of space travel – and we wonder if that case of Bordeaux tasted any different after its intergalactic voyage.
Algorithm mania [The Verge]
Are you one of the millions of people who has Twitter? And Facebook? And Instagram? Maybe Snapchat and TikTok too? Do you have a preferred algorithm that consistently shows you the content you like most? Well, Jack Dorsey’s vision for the future of social media would see users being able to choose the algorithm that knows them best to serve the content they want. This ‘decentralisation’ could bring more people into participating on social media by providing greater comfort over knowing they can control what they see. We can imagine that many social media users would love to have a better handle on what content pops up on their feed. This project is nowhere near the roll-out phase but keep your eyes open, we know how quickly things move on social media.
Don’t believe your eyes [Engadget]
The notion that we can fully trust our senses has been debated for millennia but the systemic faults of deepfake detectors shows that this topic is as relevant now as when discussed by Plato in the allegory of the cave. Deepfake detectors are “virtual detectives” that should help uncover shadows of misinformation, but the AI systems are being manipulated to oversee flaws. How? Through the creation of optical illusions which result in blunders through careful design by a sneaky creator. We are living in the age of information but as a wise person once said, “don’t trust everything you see on the internet”.
About this week’s editor, Nathalie Rubin-Delanchy:
I have spent six beautiful years at Cambre already, raving about the transition of the EU’s energy sector and all things sustainability related. My current obsession is batteries, in all shapes, sizes and applications. I am a Franco-Brit with a stubborn twist – half Corsican, half Scottish – and an insatiable passion for eating and discovering new foods. I am also a die-hard Harry Potter fan. Drop me a line if you want to test my knowledge on the Wizarding World, great restaurants, or the EU’s Batteries Regulation!
In case you haven’t had enough…
Will holograms be the next innovation in the post-pandemic workplace? [Washington Post]