Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Australian government’s green ICT plan

Given my comments yesterday, it’s interesting that the Australian government on Monday published its ‘Whole-of-Government ICT Sustainability Plan’ for discussion.

It’s the result of a 2008 review of the use of ICT, which found a disconnect between the government’s sustainability agenda and managing the energy costs and the carbon footprint of its ICT estate.

The aim of the plan is to:

- Identify environmental standards for government ICT procurement.  Various possibilities, including Energy Star and EPEAT, are discussed.

- Identify government ICT energy usage standards and/or usage targets.   The government already has several initiatives in this area, including the development of a data centre energy efficiency standard.  There are also a number of Green ICT ‘Quick Wins’ (along the lines of the UK governments ICT energy saving programme).

- Identify steps to establish an ICT energy consumption target and reporting arrangements.  This includes both overall government and separate agency ICT energy targets and the development of energy management plans.

- Take into account implications of an emissions reduction scheme on the government’s use of ICT and other sustainability initiatives.  Among the examples cited are web conferencing and telecasting, Web 2.0 forms of collaboration, video-conferencing and telepresence technologies, flexible working practices such as teleworking, smart metering and decentralised production and management


It’s this last point which particularly differentiates the Australian plan from the UK one.  Using ICT to reduce emissions elsewhere seems, at the moment, to be an integral part of the consideration in Australia, as it should be.  In the UK, the government’s ‘Greening Government ICT’ report that set the whole thing off also stated that' ‘… ICT can also be used to generate environmental benefits elsewhere in government operations and the UK. It …. should play a major part in reducing carbon emissions from other areas of government activity, for example through enabling tele and video conferencing, remote and home working’.

However, in the UK the government has already committed to ensuring that energy consumption of Government ICT will be carbon neutral by 2012 (although ‘carbon neutral’ has never been fully defined).  This seems to be the priority.  Not until December 2009 are government departments supposed to demonstrate how ICT is being used to reduce the carbon footprint elsewhere.

In terms of the Australian discussion document (which is here if you want to contribute), my view is:

- Don’t let the ability of ICT to reduce emissions elsewhere become a secondary focus. It’s easy to make quick wins by targeting ICT equipment itself, but short-sighted.

- Don’t re-invent the wheel.  For example there are already widely-used standards for equipment procurement, as well as good practice recommendations and efficiency measures for data centres.  The more standards are universal (or near universal) the faster they can be adopted.

© The Green IT Review

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