The UK government has had a green ICT plan in place for some time now and I reported on progress to date almost a year ago, so presumably a new update is due very soon. It does seem to have gone a bit quiet since the General Election in May, though, buried under all the other priorities.
Anyway, the Australian government announced its own ICT sustainability plan early in August, before their recent election (the final outcome of which is still not clear two weeks later). The Green party is likely to hold some of the balance of power, so the release of the plan, which has been in the discussion/consultation phase since last September, may prove to be good timing. Full details are here.
The plan, known as the Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010 – 2015, has been aligned with a number of other policies and guidelines in relation to climate change. The main points are summarised below.
The following are to be put into effect straight away, although there are transitional arrangements;
• compliance with ISO 14024 or ISO 14021 at the level of EPEAT Silver or equivalent for relevant ICT equipment;
• compliance with the current Energy Star version for relevant ICT equipment;
• product take-back and resource recovery, reuse or recycling for mobile devices, toner cartridges and ICT equipment covered by the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme;
• 75% of e-waste to be reused or recycled by 2015
• office copy paper to have a minimum recycled content of 50% by July 2011 and 100% by 2015;
• participation by ICT suppliers in the National Packaging Covenant by July 2011 or compliance with the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Material) Measure (UPM NEPM);
• adoption by suppliers of an environmental management system aligned to ISO 14001.
Energy and carbon emission management
A whole-of-government ICT energy consumption target will be developed, with subsequent progress and performance being monitored through the existing online system for comprehensive activity reporting (OSCAR).
Preliminary analysis indicates that Australian Government ICT operations can expect to improve energy performance by up to 20% on current consumption levels by July 2015 through improvements to desktop and data centre energy efficiencies. Specific targets include;
• desktop energy per user to be reduced from the current 630 kWh a year average to 250 kWh by 2015;
• 90% of desktop computers to be turned off after hours (with immediate effect);
• reducing desktop devices per user from 1.6:1 in 2010 to 1.2:1 by 2015;
• reducing desktop computer to printer ratio from 8:1 in 2010 to 20:1 by 2015;
• reducing copy paper per end user from 18.6 reams a year to nine;
• PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) in data centres to be reduced from 2.5 now to 1.9 in 2015.
Using ICT to enable broader sustainability
The plan requires agencies to actively pursue the use of ICT to improve environmental performance within government operations and in the delivery of government programs.
There will also be online information and better practice case studies issued showing where ICT can be used as an enabler of sustainability in government operations.
The plan is designed to promote transformational change at both organisation level and system level, so initiatives are linked to an agency's non-ICT operations as well as the policies and programs of the Australian Government overall. Consequently;
• agencies will conduct an environmental risk assessment and integrate significant ICT aspects into their EMS (Environmental management system);
• agencies will review their internal governance arrangements and integrate ICT sustainability into internal documentation;
• agencies will implement strategies to raise awareness, provide training programs, and monitors and reports performance through a GreenICT Scorecard;
• a nominated agency will provide central coordination, guidance and support for agencies when implementing the plan.
This does seem to be significantly different from the UK Government’s green ICT plan. In the UK the plan is much less prescriptive about individual ICT targets. There’s a list of 18 green actions that departments are ‘advised’ to adopt, but no individual action has the specific targets cited in the Australian version. It’s even stranger given that the only specific target the UK government has is to make ICT carbon neutral in operation in Government departments by 2012, something that’s only feasible with the purchase of significant carbon offsets (with a corresponding impact on ICT budgets). It does seem that the Australian plan is more practical and realistic in its approach. We shall see.