Monday, 23 March 2009

Green ICT in the EU

As we reported in January, the EU has been developing a Green ICT plan inspired by the Smart 2020 report which McKinsey produced for the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) last June. The Commission has now published a paper which sets out the background to a Recommendation to be adopted by the Commission in the second half of 2009, after a public consultation. The Recommendation will set out measures to pave the way for ICTs to contribute to energy efficiency gains and emissions reductions across the economy, based on three main actions:

- The ICT sector will be invited to set itself targets and agreement on measurement methodologies of the energy consumption and carbon emissions of its processes

- Working partnerships between the ICT and other sectors will be encouraged to identify where and how ICTs can play a role in reducing emissions in those sectors

- Member states should be called upon to enable the EU-wide roll-out of ICT tools likely to trigger a shift in the behaviour of consumers, businesses and communities and to drive demand for ICT solutions to optimise the energy performance of their own operations.

The basis for the discussion is that the use of ICT equipment represents about 1.75% of carbon emissions in Europe with a further 0.25% coming from the production of ICT and consumer electronic equipment. As the range and penetration of ICTs increase, their overall energy use is growing. It is in the rest of the economy that the enabling capacity of ICTs is expected to make the greatest contribution to reducing emissions as well as cost savings. It falls into three main areas:

- Buildings and Construction. According to the paper, ICT-enabled systems can reduce the energy consumption of buildings in the EU by up to 17%.

- Transport and Logistics. Carbon emission in transport/logistics could be cut by up to 27%.

- Smart meters. Results from trials in a number of Member States show that using smart meters can lower energy consumption by up to 10%.

The paper comes at a time when the EU is looking to increase funding in ICT because the European industry does not seem to be pulling its weight in the world market, mainly because of teh fragmented nature of the market in Europe. A new ICT Research and Innovation Strategy put forward by the Commission calls on member states and industry to pool resources and work together more in ICT research and innovation. It also proposes that Europe should double its investments in ICT research and innovation over the next ten years. The Commission already plans to increase the annual ICT research funding from €1.1 billion in 2010 to €1.7 billion in 2013 and is looking to member startes to match the increase at national level.

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