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Given that within the coming years, another billion people are going come online along with billions more devices thanks to the Internet of things (IoT), we recognize that the community of Internet professionals and organizations cannot legitimately discuss access without addressing sustainability, especially as it relates to energy. Our support for ARMIX, an Internet exchange point (IXP) in Armenia, is testament to this, and reflective of our global development strategy. Around three years ago, ISOC donated 18 solar panels to ARMIX to help cut down on their energy bill and reduce their reliance on nonrenewable power sources. The panels provide around 4 kilowatts of power, and they constitute the first time that ISOC has donated such equipment to an IXP.

We recently spoke with Vahan Hovsepyan, the director of the ARMIX Foundation and a member of the ISOC Armenia Chapter, about what prompted ARMIX to reach out to ISOC with their request and how it has benefited them.

According to Vahan, the idea to reach out to ISOC came about when they decided to integrate renewable energy into their operations to promote green energy solutions as well as reduce their electricity costs and consumption. He added that ARMIX chose solar because they knew about a company installing solar panels in Armenia, and they did not have many other renewable alternatives to consider (such as wind). The Armenian government is also heavily promoting solar. For instance, a bill was being drafted at the time that included stipulations about returning additional capacity gained from renewables, solar in particular, back to the grid – and it become law in 2016. He also stressed that Armenia is in a unique geographic location since the country receives ample sunlight, and the panels largely do not have to be rotated since they are almost always exposed to the sun during the day.

Since the panels have been donated, their electricity costs have dropped by more than 30%. Moreover, Vahan emphasized that their reliance on nonrenewable energy has decreased as a result of the panels. “They have helped immensely, and we really thank ISOC for its support,” Vahan said, adding: “The solar panels are also drastically reducing the amount of electricity we obtain from nonrenewable sources.” And while they are only currently present at one of ARMIX’s three points of presence (PoPs), Vahan said ARMIX wants to expand the use of solar to the rest of their PoPs.

Vahan made one point clear: ARMIX wanted to set a good example of technology companies that help to change their physical environment. It also demonstrates the importance of an enabling policy environment and public-private partnerships to promote a cleaner, more sustainable environment. They are introducing the community to a new issue, in this case, sustainability, which Vahan considers a significant step forward.

When I spoke to Vahan, his colleague Hovhannes Alexanyan – the commercial director of ARPINET, a local Internet service provider (ISP) and member of ARMIX – joined. Hovhannes said the Municipality of Ejmiatsin, the spiritual capital of Armenia, installed LED lighting around the city, and is on track to get its investment back within a year. He stressed this program was implemented partly due to ARPINET’s success with solar power and energy savings, which served as its inspiration.

ARMIX’s success has not gone unnoticed, either. ARMIX is setting a good example for other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries in terms of promoting green energy and green infrastructure, along with the policies, strategy, regulation, and legislation to support it. Vahan said they are planning to host Kyrgyz colleagues that they met at an ISOC-sponsored IXP workshop, which was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in December 2016, to show them how they operate the IXP after they expressed interest.

Such collaboration and the success ARMIX has experienced represent a positive affirmation of why we do the work we do. And, of course, when his Kyrgyz colleagues arrive to visit, the solar panels will have a front-and-center position.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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