Green:Net: Why We Need Computing & the Internet for a Green Economy

Exactly one month from now — on April 29th — California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, uber-investors Vinod Khosla and Steve Jurvetson, Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl, CPUC Commissioner Dian Grueneich and many, many others will take the stage at our annual Green:Net conference, where they will talk about how information technology — computing, software, broadband networks and the web — is key to fighting climate change.

More importantly, they will talk about the market opportunities that such an intersection between green and computing will offer — and how to harness those opportunities now.

Among the opportunities that will be explored in depth at Green:Net 2010:

The Smart Grid

The U.S. government has started to dole out a whopping $4 billion for utility smart grid projects, and utilities around the world are forecast to be spending a total of $12 billion a year on smart grid infrastructure by 2013. Proof that the smart grid industry has gone mainstream: GE (s GE) even devoted an entire Super Bowl ad to it.

Among the companies betting big on the smart grid that we’ll hear from at Green:Net are Silver Spring Networks (which  is widely expected to go public this year); networking giant Cisco (s CSCO); IBM, which has been playing middleman between the infrastructure folks and the power companies; and from the telecom side of things, Sprint (s S) and Motorola (s MOT). For as Ericsson’s (s ERIC) CEO Hans Vestberg said recently, “Broadband will be a pre-requisite for a 21st Century low-carbon economy.”

We’ll also be interviewing execs from Google (s GOOG) and Microsoft (s MSFT), both of which have developed competing web-based energy management tools that will be connected to the smart grid.

The Connected Car

Mainstream electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF and GM Volt will start to go on sale in 2010, the first of a million EVs expected to be on the market within five years. So how, as Earth2Tech’s Josie asked recently, will grid operators survive the crush? At Green:Net, the president of Reliant Energy, Jason Few, will offer a utility’s perspective.

The next generation of vehicles will also be increasingly connected to broadband networks and will rely on software and computing. Execs from GM (s GM), Nissan, Better Place and IBM (s IBM) will be at Green:Net to talk about what’s next for the connected car, notably how it will be a platform for application development.

Smarter, Cleaner Internet Infrastructure

All this computing means a considerable amount of additional power consumption. With that in mind, companies like Google are trying to innovate around designing servers and data centers to use as little energy — in the cleanest form — as possible. Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl will unveil some of the search giant’s data center energy innovations at Green:Net.

Greentech investments soared in the third quarter of 2009 to become the leading venture sector for the first time (see Cleantech Financing Trends: 2010 and Beyond, GigaOM Pro, subscription required), and are expected to remain healthy throughout 2010. Behind many of these innovative companies are the same investors who led the growth of the Internet, among them:

* Steve Jurvetson, managing director of Draper Fisher Jurveston, which was among those that brought the world Hotmail, has now backed electric vehicle firm Tesla and Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics.
* Bill Gross, Idealab founder and serial entrepreneur, is heading up eSolar, which uses computing and algorithms to lower the cost of solar
* Vinod Khosla, the founder of Sun Microsystems, is investing in battery makers Sakti3 and Seeo, and green car companies EcoMotors and Transonic Combustion through his greentech-focused firm, Khosla Ventures

The result will be an untold number of greentech jobs. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a green economy a backbone of his administration — and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown plans to do the same. He’ll be laying out his vision and taking questions from the audience at Green:Net.

The space where greentech and computing meet is ripe with opportunity. Don’t miss out — join us at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco at Green:Net 2010.

Images courtesy of Flickr users splorp, B Tal, Nissan and the Networking the Green Economy Report.