ICT firms pledge to measure their carbon footprint


Leading associations in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) have teamed up to measure the sector's energy consumption and coordinate action on deploying technologies that contribute to the EU's climate and energy goals.

A new industry initiative, the ICT for Energy Efficiency (ICT4EE) Forum, was launched yesterday (23 February).

The initiative is supported by DigitalEurope, the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), TechAmerica Europe and the Japan Business Council in Europe.

It responded to the EU executive's recommendations in October 2009 (EURACTIV 12/10/09), which urged the sector to commit to ambitious targets to bring its rising carbon emissions under control.

The companies said they would work over the next three years to develop ways of measuring the energy consumption of ICT processes and agree on a voluntary framework for reporting on energy footprints. They will also identify targets to improve the energy efficiency of their processes with a view to exceeding the EU's 2020 climate targets by 2015.

The forum will also seek cross-sectoral cooperation with the construction, transport, and energy supply industries as well as consumers to provide intelligent solutions to saving energy.

"Smart implementation of ICTs will require industry and policy support," said Luis Neves, chairman of GeSI. This would include the implementation of standards, secure communication of information and financing for research and pilot projects, he said.

The EU views information and communication technologies as key enablers of greater energy efficiency in the future. This is markedly the case in the energy supply system, where a transformation away from centralised fossil fuel production to renewable, small-scale generation will require smart grids that are able to balance supply with demand.

Javier Villalba Sánchez, CEO of the Spanish energy company Iberdrola's Networks Business, said that smart grid technology is moving forward very quickly.

"We are not starting from scratch; we've been working on this for years," he said.

The network chief expects much investment to flow into smart grids in the coming years, making the sector a lucrative business for ICT companies. He estimated that such investment will amount to around €100bn, 60% of which will be devoted to ICT.

Spain has put promoting technological development on the agenda of its six-month EU presidency, said Juan Tomás Hernani, state secretary of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. He stressed that the EU would have to concentrate on greening the economy, where it can create a stronghold.

"I think we should be a bit tired of the European paradox of insufficient results from investment we make in research, especially from public money," Hernani said, adding that it is time to look at the US to learn from an economy that produces value for money.

The minister argued that the EU needs to realise the value of linking the innovation and research efforts of separate countries to find solutions to common challenges. He said cooperation between national programmes could raise the share of European-level investment in research and development from the current 5% to 20%.

"We are proposing for 2020 another indicator to measure the progress of Europeanisation of technology and research," he said, explaining that this would measure how big a proportion of investment activities are made at EU level rather than in individual states. 

Intel said it was fully behind the industry initiative.

"Even today there are huge opportunities within the data centre and client side that derive significant savings in energy costs through refresh. Whilst clear measurements are necessary to understand and manage energy consumption, we would encourage the ICT4EE Forum to focus on opportunities and incentives that technologies can bring to drive energy efficiencies in other sectors of the economy," said Richard Curran, Intel's director of product marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

According to estimates by consulting firm McKinsey, widespread use of intelligent devices and applications could reduce global CO2 emissions by as much as 15% by 2020.

In March 2009, the European Commission launched an action plan to increase ICT usage to facilitate the transition to an "energy-efficient, low-carbon economy". The ICT industry was encouraged to cut its own emissions together with helping other sectors to become greener (see EURACTIV LinksDossier).

In November 2009, the EU executive published recommendations for both the ICT sector to cut its emissions and member states to support the use of smart technologies to boost energy efficiency (EURACTIV 12/12/08).

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