ICT has a major role to play in Green Economy, sustainability expert says

1 Apr 2010

Chris Tuppen is chief sustainability officer with BT Group and was co-editor of ‘SMART 2020’ in the UK, a report that looked at how, where and to what effect ICT could be used to enable a low-carbon economy. His day job at BT means Tuppen knows all about utilising ICT to lower carbon emissions.

“At BT we consume some 0.7pc of all UK electricity, which gives you an idea of the scale of the challenge,” he says. “We set our first carbon target in 1992, including the purchase of renewable electricity, and we’ve reduced our CO2 emissions in the UK by 58pc since 1997. We’ve got plans to build 250 megawatts of wind generation across the UK, which will be 25pc of our UK electricity requirements by 2016. We’ve got smart electricity meters across 5,700 of our sites, and we are putting in smart gas meters.”

Tuppen says this change has been undertaken by embedding this green philosophy right into the business processes. “We run all sorts of employee campaigns, and we look at this as a sort of top-down bottom-up embedding process, with leadership, targets, objectives from the top, and employee engagement on the ground as regards taking action. We’ve done a whole raft of initiatives to deliver some of those savings, including eating our own dog food in terms of flexi-working, teleconferencing and virtualisation.”

ICT’s role in going green

Going green just makes a lot of business sense, says Tuppen, and he believes ICT has a major role to play. “In a number of service-sector businesses, the ICT energy consumption will be a significant chunk of that business’ carbon footprint, and the thing that gives the most bang for buck at the moment is what’s called virtualisation of data centres. You can get 8–10 times productivity improvement through virtualisation and consolidation of data centres.

“You can also do things like automated power down of PCs, tracking the system by using remote monitoring, and there are also the classic examples we’ve had for a number of years like teleconferencing, tele-working, flexi-working and working from home. People often argue it doesn’t help because you’re transferring energy from an office to home, but actually we’ve monitored some of our home workers, tracked their energy consumption and compared it with a typical BT office – transport, heating, energy, etc, – and there are substantial savings carbon-wise. The people we were monitoring were saving over a tonne of CO2 a year.”

As for the future, Tuppen is a big believer in intelligent buildings.

“Our buildings are pretty dumb when you look at how energy is used and how the building space is managed. There are so many ways of making them more efficient. I’ve encountered a company that links its online meeting room bookings through to the energy management of the building, so the building knows when a room is going to be occupied and by how many people, and the ventilation and heat only works in the room when it needs to. That is just one tiny example of how you could actually apply an awful lot more intelligence to a building.

“Buildings represent about 40pc of energy demand in Europe – I think it’s 50pc if you include the embedded energy in materials. So there is a huge opportunity in that area alone to make things more efficient through the deployment of ICT.”

By Ann O’Dea

Photo: Chris Tuppen, chief sustainability officer with BT Group


Recently named ‘One of the 50 people who could save the planet from climatic disaster’ by a special Guardian newspaper panel, Chris Tuppen will speak at The Green Economy – A Business & Leadership Briefing, which takes place on Friday, 14 May 2010 at the Four Seasons Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin.

For further information on The Green Economy – A Business & Leadership Briefing or to book, go to the website.

Ann O’Dea is the CEO and co-founder of Silicon Republic and the founder of Future Human