Well it turns out that on the same day that we published 'The Meaning of Green IT', Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media was commenting on the role of ICT in tackling climate change.
She made three main points about the role of ICT, and I quote:
- 'Firstly, ICT can replace physical products and services with on-line services. This "dematerialisation" is seen not only in business but also in e-Government and e-Health'.
- 'Secondly, the ICT sector itself must clean up its own house. The carbon footprint of the ICT sector is small (estimated at 2% of global emissions) but it can be improved'.
- 'But the real gains will come from the potential offered by ICT as an enabler to reduce the other 98% of CO2 emissions'.
I'm not sure about the first of these. Clearly on-line services can be more energy efficient, but often the online service is an addition to what's being provided already so savings may not be significant.
The second point is the one where all the focus is at the moment, i.e. making IT itself greener through switching things off and all the activities around the data centre. (The 2% figure is often used - usually just for IT - but in developed countries the figure is undoubtedly higher and will vary by the structure of the economy - the more services-based the higher the proportion of energy used by ICT).
The third point is the one which I have been harping on about in this blog for some time. Conventional wisdom is that more than half of the energy savings that a company can make can only be done through the use of IT. This is where the focus needs to be. Of course address the easy, quick-return savings in the data centre, but don't waste too much time squeezing energy out of the IT department when it could be making much more significant gains elsewhere.
Anyway, In the ICT sector, the European Commission wants to 'explore voluntary agreements with industry to raise energy efficiency and to reach carbon neutrality well before 2020'.