IT industry no greener than metallurgy: ACS

Convergence a key to power reduction

As the global economy continues to go through a green revolution, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) announced ICT use by local businesses generated 7.94 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005, which is on a par with the civil aviation and metal production Industries.

The report, conducted by technology services firm Ethan Group, is claimed to be Australia's first ICT carbon emissions audit and revealed ICT usage represents 2.84 percent of the emissions attributed to the stationary energy component (energy consumed excluding transportation), and 1.52 percent of total national emissions.

The total national emissions was 522.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005.

The report found one of the biggest offenders is an employee's personal workstation equipment, which is generally in an operational state for 12 hours per day, and in many cases is not switched off.

ICT's carbon emissions are comparable to other industries like civil aviation, which is estimated to generate 0.97 percent of total carbon emissions and metal production, which accounts for around 2.3 percent of total carbon emissions.

ACS President Philip Argy said our reliance on ICT comes at the price of an increasing demand for power and the consequent generation of carbon dioxide emissions.

"Environmental considerations are set to become an integral part of the professional conduct, practice, and ethical considerations that ICT professionals will bring to their organizations," Argy said, adding the purpose of the audit was to measure the extent to which commercial use of ICT is contributing to carbon emissions and to explore options for reducing the impact of that contribution.

"When you factor in individual consumption of ICT products - a calculation which was outside the scope of this report - the level of carbon emissions is far higher," Argy said.

In response to the audit's findings, the ACS has launched a policy statement for green ICT, which includes suggestions for initiatives to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Some recommendations include extending the energy rating system to ICT equipment for domestic and commercial use; leverage innovative technologies; purchase carbon offsets to help offset emissions; replace conventional telephone equipment with IP softphones and combining communications servers with existing servers; use virtualization technology to reduce physical servers; and implement sleep mode during periods of inactivity for ICT equipment.

"The ACS has established a Green ICT special interest group for its members and for others interested in ameliorating any adverse impact of ICT on climate change," Argy said.

Ethan Group managing director Andrew Rayment said IT is a significant contributor to an organization's emissions footprint and will only increase.

"Corporate Australia should follow the guidelines set by the ACS and work with IT solutions providers that know, understand and can help implement smart and environmentally sound IT practices," Rayment said.

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