ICT Sector Can Help Reduce Emissions by 16.5 Percent: New Report

The information and communications technology (ICT) sector could play a role in building sustainability by improving areas such as logistics networks, fleet management and smart building management, according to a new study. The SMARTer2020 study estimates that together ICT technology could help cut emissions by 16.5 percent by 2020.

SMARTer2020 follows up the SMART20201 study, which first evaluated ICT’s potential to help build a low-carbon economy in 2008. The new research identifies the potential of ICT-enabled solutions to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas produced across six sectors of the economy: power, transportation, manufacturing, consumer and service, agriculture and buildings. The numbers are impressive: 9.1 gigatonnes of harmful greenhouse gases from being emitted, $1.9 trillion in gross energy and fuel savings. That’s 16 percent more than previously estimated.

The study was carried out by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a leading management consulting firm, on behalf of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), an ICT industry partnership for sustainability. It concludes that the potential for information technology to reduce global carbon emissions has been under-estimated until now, and that the abatement potential of ICT is seven times the size of the ICT sector’s own carbon footprint.

There are several case studies to back up the claim. Vodafone and ASB Bank in New Zealand, for example, demonstrates the potential for mobile communications to make substantial carbon and cost savings. In just three years, ASB Bank has been able to reduce its energy consumption by 23%, equivalent to €1,625,000 (US$2,116,562) and has saved over 1,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, thanks to Vodafone’s M2M solutions.

Emission reductions can come from virtualization initiatives such as cloud computing and video conferencing, as well as through efficiency gains such as optimization of variable-speed motors in manufacturing, and 32 other ICT-enabled solutions identified in the study.

Some ICT-driven solutions such as smart electricity grids generate benefits on a national level, while others like intelligent building management systems can result in energy and cost savings for individual households and businesses.

Follow the link to download the report.

Image credit: Global e-Sustainability Initiative