Green IT allows resources to be used in a sustainable manner, both within the sector and in other branches of the economy. ICT solutions offer important opportunities and potential in the areas of climate protection and resource efficiency. The buzzword Green IT has been doing the rounds for a few years now. The current SMART 2020 Addendum Deutschland Study documents just how important ICT is for climate protection and resource efficiency: According to the study, by 2020 ICT in Germany alone could help to save 207 megatons (Mt) of CO2 equivalents. This could be achieved directly, i.e. by using hardware and computing centers with greater energy efficiency, and indirectly through the influence of associated industrial sectors, e.g. through intelligent power networks in the energy industry, optimized transport and logistics processes or through “smart buildings” with ICT-controlled climate management systems.26
“[ICT systems] develop an astounding leverage for the energy efficiency of the entire economy.“
BITKOM President August-Wilhelm Scheer
Enterprises are also aware of the great significance that ICT has for climate protection. The LIFE 2 Study shows that six in ten ICT executives (62%) believe that ICT can make a great or very great contribution to better resource efficiency and climate protection. In the United States 70 percent of the executives surveyed hold this opinion, in Spain and the United Kingdom it was 69 percent respectively (see Figure 7-12). From the point of view of ICT executives, the most important role of ICT technologies is virtualization (selected by 66% in the top 2 boxes).
Internationally, more than half of the executives (54%) state that green IT already has a great or very great importance in their enterprise. The “greenest” executives are those in the United Kingdom and the United States (both 71%); the issue has the least importance in France where only just under a third of the executives (30%) state that green IT is important. However, 70 percent of executives expect green IT to play an important or very important role in their company in the future. The biggest increase in the significance in green IT is expected in Germany: Green IT currently only has (very) great importance for 47 percent of the German ICT executives surveyed, but 70 percent expect it to play a (very) important role in the future (see Figure 7-13).
If one asks why green IT is interesting for enterprises, or could be interesting in future, the following picture emerges: The most frequently mentioned reason, given by 57 percent, are the cost savings that can be achieved by green IT. 43 percent give the positive influence of green IT on the enterprise’s public image as an important reason. A further 42 percent state that a sense of social responsibility is why their enterprise is interested in green IT. 24 percent of ICT executives state that green IT is important for their enterprise because it is something their customers demand. The aspect of securing a competitive advantage through the use of green IT was comparatively unimportant, with only 17 percent of the executives selecting it as a reason.
It seems clear that by and large the central aspect in the issue of green IT for most companies is the cost aspect. The think tank experts also share this opinion, and came to the conclusion in their debate that green IT is primarily an important future topic because it not only contributes to environmental protection, but also offers cost reduction and performance increases. The experts say that it is this dual advantage that makes green IT so attractive for enterprises.
However, the LIFE 2 Study also shows that the awareness of the savings potential that can be unlocked through green IT is still patchy: Only one in five of the ICT executives (22%) knows approximately how high electricity consumption for IT is in his or her enterprise. Although 25 percent of the executives in Germany know how much electricity their enterprise uses annually for IT, and 28 percent in the United States, in France only 11 percent of ICT executives knows how much electricity their IT consumes. Only one in four (24%) of all the companies with more than 1000 employees surveyed for this study has ever prepared a business case study on their enterprise’s potential cost savings through the use of green IT, indicating a certain lack of information with regard to the issue of green IT (see Figure 7-14).
The ICT executives surveyed see the greatest energy saving potential in workplace systems, e.g. desktops and laptops. 58 percent of the ICT executives believe that this area offers great or very great savings potential. Other high potential is seen in IT networks (56%) and computing centers (54%). There is slightly less focus on the savings potential that could be unlocked by green IC through processes such as supply chains, production control etc., with 53 percent of the ICT executives naming this aspect in the top 2 boxes.
However, it is precisely here, in the use of ICT solutions to indirectly avoid or decrease emissions in other industries and sectors, that the greatest reduction potential lies. The current Smart 2020 Study, for instance, identifies a direct savings potential for Germany of around 13 Mt CO2; in contrast, the indirect savings are potentially around 194 Mt CO2. The indirect savings are not only significantly higher than the direct savings, they are also eight times the total emission volume of the entire ICT industry in 2007, the reference year.27
The introduction of comprehensive measurements is essential, particularly if the enterprises wish to fully exploit the cost savings potential they are targeting by using green IT. In order to make the success of a green IT strategy visible, it is important that the relevant operating figures (e.g. the energy consumption of individual departments or the power consumption of the computing center) are clearly detailed.
26 Smart Studie 2020 (2009)
27 The emissions of the ICT sector are exclusively the result of the power consumed by ICT hardware and the necessary infrastructure. Emissions from computing centres are generated by the operation of servers and the necessary infrastructure (cooling units, storage and networks). On average they contribute 23% of the total CO2 emissions of around 23 Mt in ICT. Emissions at the workplace are caused by the use of desktop and laptop computers, monitors, and other hardware devices. In
total, these emissions account for around 49% of CO2 emissions caused by ICT. Telecommunications devices, such as cell phones, landline phones and routers cause emissions due to the power they use when switched on or in stand-by mode. The CO2 emissions are on average 10%. Emissions from telecommunications networks are caused by the operation of landline and cell phone systems, which together account for around 19% of the average ICT CO2 emissions. Source: Smart Studie 2020, Addendum Deutschland.