Athens, Ga. — The Georgia Energy Informatics Cluster, or GEIC, a new public-private collaboration, has launched, bringing together Georgia’s research universities, major corporations and clean energy firms to prepare a roadmap for building a robust energy efficiency industry within the state.
“We have the requisite pieces to create a strong industry in the state, from intellectual property and venture capital to companies providing software services and hardware design,” explained Rick Watson, a management information systems professor in the University of Georgia Terry College of Business and an organizer of GEIC. “The aim of GEIC is to bring together groups of stakeholders with common goals and connect them with large corporate operations that have the most to gain from reducing energy waste.”
Southern Company, AT&T and UPS were among the large corporations participating in a symposium on Nov. 9 at UGA’s Terry Executive Education Center in Buckhead. They were joined by representatives from more than five universities, 50 Georgia companies and the Public Service Commission, all of whom are interested in stimulating regional business and creating jobs through the application of green information systems—also known as “Energy Informatics.”
Energy efficiency has become a national issue, hailed as a solution for improving company profits during lean economic times and reducing dependence on fossil fuels, Watson said. Green information technology has received most of the attention thus far due to technological improvements making everything from handheld gadgets to power-hungry data centers more energy efficient.
However, energy informatics has a much greater potential to increase energy efficiency and ultimately create jobs, because it addresses a much larger domain. Information systems are the integrated sets of people, processes, software and hardware that support organizational goals. “Technology gains its value from being part of a system, and companies should be thinking about their investment in systems rather than technology,” said Maric Boudreau, also a management information systems professor at UGA and GEIC organizer.
Energy informatics is an emerging sub-discipline of information systems that seeks to optimize the efficiency of flow networks—such as electricity and oil—or even packages and vehicles. The primary tenant as designated in Watson and Boudreau's recent book Energy Informatics is that: Energy + Information < Energy. This notion is at the heart of what Georgia’s smart grid companies are attempting to achieve, and representatives from GE, Landis+Gyr, E3 Greentech and Verdeeco were on hand, as well as companies—such as IBM, Noresco and Skipping Stone—that consult on energy efficiency systems and practices.
Other participants included Georgia solar companies, architectural firms, research and development labs, investment groups, and state agencies such as the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and the Center of Innovation for Energy Technology.
The organizers of GEIC presented their vision for how the organization will support the budding industry by creating a networking forum and maintaining an up-to-date database of stakeholders. Additionally, GEIC will coordinate educational opportunities between university faculty and industry professionals, and conduct an annual spring tradeshow and fall conference.
“The enthusiasm with which Georgia companies responded to this symposium indicates that the state is poised to move forward in this arena,” said Bart King, whose Cleantech Communications firm is handling many of the organizing duties. “We reached our seating limit in just a few weeks, registering more than 100 individuals representing some of the biggest corporations on the planet, as well as the CEOs of many of the state’s technology startups and representatives from state and local government agencies. We'll see how quickly we can get the gears turning.”