Technology

Brussels Forces Tech to Be Greener


The ICT industry must lead the way in conserving energy and reducing carbon emissions, according to the EC.

In a recommendation adopted by the Commission last week, it called on the ICT sector to become 20 per cent more energy efficient by 2015, and to outline, by 2011, the practical steps it will take to achieve this target.

As well as calling for the reduction of carbon emissions within the tech industry, the recommendation also wants to see IT companies help shrink the carbon footprint of other sectors.

The EC marks out the buildings, transport and logistics industries as areas where IT could be used to help cut energy use.

Greener tech could also have a significant impact on industry as a whole: according to a report by environmental organisation The Climate Group, ICT-enabled improvements in other sectors could cut some 15 per cent of total carbon emissions by 2020.

The EC singled out videoconferencing as an example of technology that has helped cut carbon emissions, claiming if Europe were to replace 20 per cent of all business trips with videoconferencing, Europe could save more than 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

"With high-resolution video becoming increasingly affordable, we do now have an increasing number of viable options for replacing physical business travel with other alternatives," service director of analyst house Freeform Dynamics, Martin Atherton, told silicon.com.

However, according to Atherton, videoconferencing cannot be used indiscriminately. "Some projects need physical presence from the leadership...so it's a case of working out where the non-travel options are most appropriate."

Such dematerialisation—services that reduce the need for physical hardware such as storage media—should be promoted by governments and public sector bodies, according to the EC.

Other examples of dematerialised services—online public services and applications, and advanced collaboration technologies—could save at least one to two per cent of total energy use worldwide by 2020, the EC predicted.

While the Commission may be encouraging the use and creation of greener technology and IT services, according to Gartner analyst Simon Mingay the only thing that's really going to prompt significant change is consumer demand.

"The problem for the industry essentially is that it has to balance what customers want and will pay for with investments in new solutions," he said. "None of them are doing anything that the customer is not prepared to pay for."

Mingay said the IT industry is potentially the "enabler and facilitator for solutions that will reduce emissions in the rest of the economy" but before it can lead energy conservation it must establish credibility within its own sector. "ICT companies need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem," he said.

The EC recommendation adopted last week also wants to see IT become part of the answer: "Setting ambitious targets by the ICT sector for improving the energy and environmental performance of its processes is of the utmost importance," it said.

The recommendation calls for measurable cuts in the energy use and carbon emissions associated with the production, transport and sales of ICT equipment and components and develop a framework to measure its energy and environmental performance.

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