Commission casts ICT in green role


As part of its effort to combat climate change, the European Commission has announced that it would promote the use of ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) to improve energy efficiency throughout the economy - starting with buildings, lighting and the power grid.

ICT can enable - across the economy - greener behaviour, which would massively cut Europe's carbon footprint if widely deployed. The Commission will encourage the ICT industry to demonstrate leadership in reducing its own CO2 emissions and by identifying and creating solutions that will benefit the whole economy. For instance, the most advanced computer servers consume the same amount of energy as a standard light bulb - if widely used, they could offer potential energy savings of up to 70%.

"To meet Europe's energy efficiency goals by 2020, we need a high-growth, low-carbon economy. Research and rapid take-up of innovative energy-efficient ICT solutions will be crucial to lowering emissions across the whole economy" - said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "There is a win-win situation in which ICT will promote the competitiveness of EU industry, while leading the fight against climate change."

Without action, the EU's energy consumption is expected to rise by as much as 25% by 2012, which would increase EU emissions despite renewable energy targets. However, ICTs - if directed to sustainable uses - could increase energy efficiency in all areas of the economy, while continuing to account for 40% of Europe’s productivity growth. Promoting a cutting-edge market for such energy-efficient technologies is also, potentially, a long-term source of competitiveness, growth and jobs. These are the conclusions of a new Communication adopted by the Commission.

The Commission will encourage the ICT sector - which, at present, accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions - to lead by example the drive towards carbon neutrality. This will be done by reinforcing research, development and deployment of components and systems, complemented by voluntary agreements - for example, on green procurement. The real gains from green ICT will come from developing energy-efficient ICT solutions that impact the other 98% of global emissions.

To show that green technology can bring 'low carbon, high growth' to the whole economy, the Commission will focus on three energy intensive sectors -

  • Energy generation and distribution uses one-third of all primary energy. Electricity generation could be made more efficient by 40% and its transport and distribution by 10%. ICT could make - not only the management of power grids more efficient, but also facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources.
    Denmark generates half its electricity through decentralised grids - with wind power accounting for 20% of all electricity. As a result, its CO2 emissions fell from 937 to 517g/kWh from 1990-2005.
  • The heating, cooling and lighting of buildings account for more than 40% of European energy consumption.
    ICT can continuously monitor data to optimise lighting, ventilation and equipment performance and provide consumers with real-time updates on their energy consumption to stimulate behavioural changes.
    In Finland, this smart metering encouraged consumers to increase energy efficiency by 7%.
  • 20% of world electricity is used for lighting. Changing to energy-efficient light bulbs could halve today's energy consumption for lighting by 2025. Intelligent light bulbs, which automatically adjust to natural light and people's presence, will have an even greater effect.

The Commission is also launching a consultation and partnership process which includes the widest range of relevant stakeholders. In this process, cities are considered a priority, as they consume over 75% of the world's energy and produce 80% of its CO2 emissions. Urban areas can also provide the right setting for testing, validating and deploying new ICT-based solutions.

On 10 January 2007, the Commission adopted an energy and climate change package - endorsed both by the European Parliament and by EU leaders at the March 2007 European Council - targeting a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels and 20% renewable energy use by 2020 (IP/07/29).

On 23 January 2008, the Commission adopted a far-reaching package, demonstrating that the agreed climate change targets are technologically and economically feasible and provide a unique business opportunity for thousands of European companies (IP/08/80).

EU research into ICT for energy efficiency has already produced results. Under the Sixth Framework Programme, HIPEAC and other research projects proved that computer performance can be decoupled from energy consumption (Click Here), while OLLA delivered organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) - twice as efficient as standard lamps (Click Here).