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Innovators, business leaders discuss how to reduce energy costs in N.J.

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Collaboration between big research organizations, entrepreneurs and government will be essential to reduce the carbon footprint of information, communications and telecommunications industries, said Dr. Markus Hofmann, head of Bell Labs Research, at New Jersey's first all-day conference devoted to finding sustainable, energy efficient solutions for the so-called ICT industries.

“This is not just about the environment, it is also about the economy—we need to keep driving down the cost, and energy is a huge cost factor. We need to come together in New Jersey, where we have very strong companies, very strong organizations,” said Hofmann at the event held at Murray Hill-based Bells Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent.

The conference was sponsored by Alcatel-Lucent, Verizon and the state Economic Development Authority, and drew a number of green energy innovators, including Princeton Power Systems and Noveda, and scientists from New Jersey Institute of Technology and Princeton University.

Tim Lizura, EDA chief operating officer, said, “We want to create an innovation ecosystem in New Jersey to drive the economy; we need to share ideas and get to know each other.”

Lizura noted that New Jersey now has $1.2 billion in available funding for new capital investment in university facilities, much of it the result of a bond issue that passed in November. “We will create 21st century laboratories and put programs in place to work with you and collaborate on changing the world.”

James J. Gowen, chief sustainability officer at Verizon, said the company embarked in 2009 on a mission to reduce its carbon footprint in half by 2020, and has achieved a 30 percent reduction. He said the company has addressed “the low-hanging fruit and now it will get tougher.” He said the company now has 2,000 alternative fuel vehicles on the road and is designing energy efficient buildings and more sustainable telecom networks.

“We need to drive collaborations between education, large companies like ourselves and Alcatel-Lucent, small-venture companies and Trenton, to get everyone involved in creating solutions for New Jersey,” Gowen said. “That is really the goal of today: things for New Jersey, in New Jersey.”

Thierry E. Klein, head of green research at Bell Labs, said the company launched a dedicated green research program in 2010. “We looked at how energy efficient networks could possibly be, compared to how energy efficient they are today, and we realized there is a huge gap. If you want to bridge that gap, you have to look at all the aspects.”

For example, there is a huge opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of wireless telecom networks. Klein said a large cell tower may be a mile away from your wireless phone “and you expend a lot of power to send the information from that tower to your location. If you go to smaller cells, you can shrink that distance and you become much more efficient in transmitting the same information. So we are looking for new architectures that incorporate large cells with small cells.”

Judith Sheft, NJIT vice president of research and development, said the university is focused on sustainably in its architecture and its electrical and computer engineering programs. She said the state’s sustainability community needs to come together more often in order to forge projects that lead to innovation. “We need more venues like this, and we need to do this more often.” She said New Jersey has significant numbers of scientists and business people who can advance the goals of sustainability. “You need to capture these capabilities and use them.”

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