Green ICT: Asking the Right Questions

Posted on March 4, 2010  /  0 Comments

The colloquium was conducted by Nalaka Gunawardena.

The colloquium began by Nalaka explaining the big picture; Climate change and energy use.  Global warming is not new but the rate of global warming is. There is a multiplicity of gases causing global warming and their sources.

Looking at the Green House Gas (GHG) mix, Carbon Dioxide is dominant. Made source is fossil fuel use. The ‘F’ gases such as CFC are the man made – now getting phased out.  There is an expansion in the volume of Green house gases.

Nalaka explaied that all GHG are not equal. Methene is much worse than Carbon Dioxide, but Carbon di Oxide has a much worse reputation

Looking at the sources of GHG, there is a variation depend on the organiation which the data is obtained from. A question was raised about the impact of forestry on GHG emmisions, Nalaka explained that deforestation is the main contributor. Electricity and heat or energy supply are the biggest source with forestry a close second.

Nalaka then went on to talk about the Stern Report (UK govt, 2006) which said  ‘Climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen…’ He higlighted the lack of referece to ICT in the report. The only direct reference was to household appliances. Green ICTs have received more attention since then. The Stern report has never been challenged on its premise or analysis as far as Nalaka was aware.  ICT and Aviation has roughly the same level of emmision, however aviation gets much more flack. ICT sector directly contribute 2.5% of total GHG emisions according to the Mckinsey report to the UN in 2007.

The adaptability of the IT and Telecom sector to consumer demands, as such the sector should be able to respond better to the problem of GHG emmision than other industries.

Next, Nalaka moved on to how the ICT sector ‘green’ itself beyond simple CSR/PR gestures? An ITU report elaborated on why the GHG from the ICT industry has been rising. Among the reasons  were Proliferation of user devicesUsers owning more devices, Devices today consume more energy and More processing needs more cooling. Nalaka then explained thaat some of the new technology such as sHD televisions draw more power than the traditional units. The stand by power or vampire enrgy too contributes significantly to energy consumption. standby power cost 8% of entire British domestic power consumption (UK Energy Rev, 2006)

Some of the suggestions given by Bill Melody were Improving sector’s own carbon footprint, ICT applications improving efficiency of other sectors, esp. infrastructure.Third order implications from widespread applications of green ICT that change institutions & behaviour patterns.

In taking the first point, with IT and telecom sectors, we can look at both Macro/industry level savings and then micro/consumer level savings.

In taking the Telecom sector, the opportunity lies in telecom migrating to Next Gen Networks (NGN) as Less switching centres needed, More tolerant climatic range specs (less need for air conditioning) and New standards (VDSL2) allow 3 power modes: full, low, sleep

Are savings being offset? Some of the questions are how energy-conscious are services & applications riding on NGNs? Rapid growth of web-based services driving up power demand & CO2 emissions

Rising power use by server farms supporting PC and mobile web use: Hidden green costs of Google apps? Does a web search kill a tree?

The ETNO report highlights the need for Srategic approach and also the need for scaling. The plan to reduce GHG will only work if the operators and players make a commitment.

What are the cost benefit ratios? What is the effect of ITC on the Transport? The other is the concept is cloud computing. Finding from 3rd annual survey by Rackspace, Pub Sep 2009 (150 IT managers worldwide) says that there is no tangible drop.

What are the other low hanging fruits? Also which of the technology that can be passed without bing stuck in political bickering and policy paralysis? An example is the Copenhagen summit. In copenhegen no one wanted to be the first to make changes.

The other level is where ICTs and Telecom help other sectors go green? One OCED analysis says that creative use of ICTs can reduce electricity consupltion/GHG emmisions by 15%. THere is also the process (experimetal) of carbon capture. Norway is at the moment building carbon traps.

What are the cost benefit ratios? What is the effect of ITC on the Transport? The other is the concept is cloud computing. Finding from 3rd annual survey by Rackspace, Pub Sep 2009 (150 IT managers worldwide) says that there is no tangible drop.

The Transmission and distribution loss is about 18% in Sri Lanka,  Delhi can be as high as 40%. A certain level is unavoidable. US is abut 7%, theoretically SL can go lower as the systemis much more compact. Most of the loss is that the generation and end use is not prperly coordinated. This is the Smart rid arguemtn. We also have to be awre of the re-bound. The relationaship is not linear. There is a need for better measuremnent.

Big Challenges: Growing human numbers, Rising middle classes through globalization and Global warming.

What is to be done? Look for a ‘handle’ on Climate/ET/IT, Ignore corporate spin, media hype, Search for strategic ‘entry points’, Study trends & patterns, Demystify industry data, find policy implications, Look for improvements that are: significant, affordable & less politically contentious Measurable & scalable

We also will require regular tracking, simple industry wide chnges and find Ways to crowd-source for monitoring and innovation.

ICTs have the ability to make under the radar changes unlike the avation industry.

Finally; “Telcos are punching below their weight in the climate change arena – they can be part of the solution than part of the problem. They will find it hard to avoid being victims of climate change, but they can reduce their role as villains; and they might even turn out to be heroes.” –  Stephen Young, Ovum Consulting,67759 and “We need both IT and ET, flat and green, working together. Because only then can everyone and everything be both distributed and connected. If we can get that, the world will have a new operating system!” – K R Sridhar, CEO, Bloom Energy

Sujata Gamage: A starting point maybe to start with Melody’s levels and form a picture with the sectors metioned at te begining.

Rohan SAmarajiva: A clear starting poitn is the improvement of the individual sectors’ carbon foot print.

Healni Galpaya: Carbon trading seems to be failing, but there is an economic incentive(s) to switch to more green technology in the telecom sectors in developing countries that adopt the budget telecom model.

Nalaka: The cost of nergy sources such as solar power are falling.

Helani, Rohan: There is no taxes etc involved in the installation on solar panels. There is a need to work wtih the industry to learn more about this.

Rohan: Transport/ICT trade off? Improvements in Efficiency does not mean green solutions.

Shazna: Maybe we can look at the Telecom sector in terms of research:

Nalaka: That maybe a sarting point. No multi country studies have been done.

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