The need for policy change has received increased attention within the sector, as recently highlighted in the SMARTer 2020 report, which noted “potentially the most important barrier to ICT adoption: public policy”.
As we see in this year’s Leaderboard ratings, the increased awareness within the IT sector of the importance of policy barriers has not yet translated to IT companies advocating for policy changes to drive investment in clean technology and renewable energy deployment at scale. Energy policy that informs our choices in electricity remains dominated by large monopoly utilities – such as Duke Energy (the largest electric utility in the US) – which remain committed to centralised dirty electricity generation such as coal and nuclear power.
These companies often see a transition to distributed renewable electricity generation, enabled by IT-driven smart grid and energy efficiency technologies, as a threat to their monopolies and profit margins. As a result, many of these same utilities are supporting front groups, such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in the US, and trade associations such as the Keidanren in Japan, which are actively undermining government efforts to transition to a renewable energy economy. This year’s Leaderboard unfortunately also saw an increase in the number of companies who were assessed negative lobby penalty points for their continued membership in regressive trade associations, or for support of front groups like ALEC.
SoftBank continues to demonstrate strong leadership in post-Fukushima Japan, demanding a change in energy policy to require changes in ownership of electricity transmission infrastructure to increase access to renewable energy sources. SoftBank has also called for a shift away from nuclear energy. In sharp contrast, the Keidanren – an influential Japanese trade organisation – continues to demand a return to reliance on nuclear power, while attacking a proposed government carbon tax and important feed-in tariff for renewable energy. Toshiba, Hitachi, NTT, and NEC are all members of the Keidanren, earning them penalty points.
Encouragingly, this year’s assessment saw a fairly broad degree of advocacy around a key policy decision, most notably the extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind energy in the US, which elicited strong leadership by newcomer Sprint as well as Microsoft, who has previously demonstrated a long-standing allergy to renewable energy policy advocacy.
However, Microsoft and AT&T – are linked to ALEC, which is leading efforts to repeal renewable energy standards in half a dozen US States, including North Carolina, where Google, Wipro, AT&T, IBM, and Cisco all have significant operations.
Wipro continues to provide important advocacy leadership in support of stronger Renewal Power Obligations, a critical policy driver for renewable energy in India, and for more aggressive targets under the National Solar Mission.
While several companies were active in UK energy policy debates, there was very little leadership evident in the broader EU. With the EU now beginning a critical round of debate on the level of ambition for 2030 climate and energy policy, IT companies who want to see IT solutions form the backbone of the EU’s 21st century energy infrastructure should speak out and distinguish themselves from BusinessEurope and other trade associations that have historically sought to maintain the fossil fuel and nuclear status quo.