ICT pivotal in saving the planet

9 Apr 2008

EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding has pledged extra funding for energy-efficient technology and reiterated that ICT will play a pivotal role in reducing Europe’s carbon footprint.

Reding has proposed increasing the budget for ICT and energy efficiency in the ICT 2009-2010 work programme (under the 7th EU Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7)) to €40m, almost double what it stands at now.

The carbon footprint of the ICT sector itself is small, accounting for 2pc of global greenhouse gas emissions, but the sector has huge potential to reduce the remaining 98pc of emissions, Reding said. She was speaking at the launch of the EICTA (European ICT Industry Association) report ‘High Tech: Low Carbon – The role of the European digital technology industry in tackling climate change’.

“In the construction sector, heating, cooling and lighting of buildings alone account for 40pc of all energy consumed in Europe. User-friendly, ICT-based energy monitoring and optimisation systems can intelligently connect more energy-efficient components and accelerate the changes in consumers’ behaviour,” she said.

Adoption of LED and OLED lighting technologies could reduce energy consumption by 30pc by 2015 (measured at today’s level) and up to 50pc by 2025.

In energy generation, overall potential savings of up to 40pc are considered possible in the energy distribution and storage industry, Reding said.

“ICT could make a major contribution. Computerised ‘virtual power plants’ will in the future optimise demand and production by smoothing peaks and facilitating trade between grid operators. Energy-hungry industrial processes and the whole area of transport are also candidates for potential savings.”

The EU is using FP7 to focus not only on reducing the energy intensity of ICT components, sub-systems and products but also to explore technologies such as quantum and photonic-based systems, which could reduce energy consumption for lighting by 30-50pc by 2015.

“In order to further develop the enabling contribution of ICT to energy efficiency a new research area has been initiated in the ICT theme, focusing on intelligent buildings and power generation and distribution,” said Reding.

The European Commission will issue a strategic communication on energy efficiency through ICT very soon, which will serve as a basis for the launching of a stakeholder consultation and partnership process.

The EU has set a goal of 20pc reduction in energy consumption, 20pc increase in use of renewable energy resources and 20pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

By Niall Byrne