Green ICT Symposium 2008

Opening Remarks: Senator Lundy

ICT forum, ANU, Friday 14 November 2008

Sustainability and ICT

I would like to welcome all of you here to this forum today. I personally am very pleased to be here today to talk about the Australian Government’s policies on sustainability and ICT.

At the Council of Australian Governments’ meeting held in Perth on 2 October 2008, COAG agreed to develop a national strategy for energy efficiency, to accelerate energy efficiency efforts across all levels of governments, and to help households and businesses prepare for the introduction of the Australian Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).

As a first step towards establishing a truly national approach, COAG has agreed to develop, subject to a regulation impact statement, national legislation for appliance energy performance standards and labelling to simplify enforcement and ensure consistency.

Streamlined roles and responsibilities for energy efficiency policies and programs are under discussion and the implementation of this strategy is due to be finalised by June 2009. This will ensure that programs assisting households and businesses to reduce their energy costs are in place prior to the introduction of the Scheme.

The Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) program is currently developing minimum energy performance standards, and equipment and appliance labelling. The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts manages this program on behalf of all state and territory governments and the New Zealand government. The program has been working in consultation with the ICT industry on a number of energy efficiency projects that affect ICT. I will briefly cover some of this work.

  • External power supplies that power products like games consoles, modem/routers and set-top boxes will be subject to minimum energy performance standards from 1 December 2008, and

  • Minimum energy performance standards are currently being considered for laptop computers, desktop computers and monitors, with a possible introduction in late 2009.

A considerable amount of testing of desktop and laptop computers is being undertaken, with computers being tested against the existing Energy Star requirements.

It was not a good result in the first lot of testing.

Initially 30 desktop and laptop computers were randomly selected for testing. Only five desktops and four notebooks met the current Energy Star version 4.0 power management requirements that became effective in 2007. Another five desktops and four notebooks failed to even meet the previous version 3.0 power management requirements that were introduced in 2005, and were superseded by the current version 4.0 power management requirements.

In a second round of testing, 100 products purchased from the market will be tested in four test facilities across Australia, including:

  • the 30 products already tested,

  • 40 products claiming Energy Star version 4.0 computer compliance, and

  • 30 products claiming Energy Star version 4.1 monitor compliance.

Results of this testing will be publicly available from the energy rating website ( in late December 2008.

Data centres have also been identified as a major energy user globally. Without intervention and particularly as the digital economy grows, energy consumption is predicted to increase. For example, in the US, energy and infrastructure costs now exceed the capital cost, and energy consumption from data centres is doubling every five years.

E3 has initiated a program for the introduction of minimum energy performance standards for data centres that draws on international best practice, and standards for data centre equipment that includes servers, storage devices, chillers and air conditioners. Each component will be subject to its own regulatory impact statement.

Further activity may investigate energy efficiency requirements for network servers, photocopiers, printers and other home and office ICT products. Industry comment is welcome throughout these various consultation processes.


The Government is also committed to tackling the increasing problem of waste in Australia, including electronic waste (e-waste).

At the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) meeting on 7 November 2008, the Australian Government announced it would develop a national waste policy to provide a coherent, efficient and environmentally responsible approach to waste management.

This policy will be developed over the next 12 months, starting with the release of a consultation paper early in 2009, followed by consultation around Australia. This major initiative is aimed at improving waste management across Australia, including the growing stream of e-waste.

In endorsing the Australian Government’s proposed national waste policy, ministers also endorsed the compilation of a comprehensive report on waste to help inform the development of this national waste policy.

Some key facts:

  • There has been no definitive statement by all governments on national waste policy since 1992, when the Council of Australian Governments agreed to the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development.

  • The latest report on waste and recycling in Australia commissioned by the Australian Government shows that the amount of waste we generate increased by
    28 per cent between 2003 and 2007.

  • This is in spite of the fact that more than 80 percent of Australian households now actively support recycling, and despite recycling levels increasing by 37 per cent over the same period.

  • Electronic waste is another significant component of the waste stream, and one that will grow dramatically in the next few years.

  • In 2005 more than 697 000 tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment was consumed and close on 313 000 tonnes of e-waste was disposed of in the same year.

  • This, already significant rate of disposal of e-waste to landfill, is expected to increase even more dramatically in the next five years with the switchover to digital televisions (by 2013). Many households are likely to get rid of their old analogue television sets.

  • This is a concern because e-waste contains hazardous materials, for example heavy metals and brominated flame retardants in plastics.

A national waste policy will provide much needed clarity on what it is we are trying to achieve in managing Australia’s waste streams. For example, how should we continue to embrace the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle, and how will climate change alter our approach to waste management?

A national waste policy will help define exactly what needs to be dealt with and by whom (including which sector of government). We plan to work with all states and territory governments as well as local governments, the community and industry.

Currently the Australian Government is working with the states and territories through the EPHC to identify the best option for managing e-waste. A Choice Modelling study is underway that will measure the community’s willingness to pay for recycling as well as the values and beliefs they hold about e-waste. EPHC will take into account best practice experience here and overseas and the experience of trial programs in Australia to help inform any decision about management of e waste.

A trial take back program for computers called Byteback is currently operating in Victoria. Households and small businesses are able to dispose of their unwanted computer equipment responsibly, free of charge. Sustainability Victoria and the Australian Information Industry Association are jointly running the trial.

It is encouraging to see the computer and television industry taking the initiative and being responsible for the end-of-life management of their e-waste, and recovering the valuable resources in these products.

To keep industry and the community up to date on progress, environment ministers will shortly release a statement on managing end-of-life televisions and computers. This statement will outline some of the issues that will need to be considered in developing options to manage e-waste.

The ministers also acknowledged the extensive work by the television and computer industries to develop product stewardship schemes and reiterated their determination to ensure the best outcome for the community.

Australian Government ICT procurement amounts to a staggering $6 billion per year and so may gain from inter-agency collaborations and sharing of expertise. The previous program to centralise ICT on a ‘Whole of Government’ basis failed to achieve significant synergies. The Commonwealth has over 800 separate web sites and a relaunch of the website was a start to allow for single client sign-on sessions.

As you are aware their was a review of Government ICT by Sir Peter Gershon. This (Gershon) Review of the Australian Government’s Use of Information and Communication Technology, procurement practice and the role of online services, reported in October 2008.

The Gershon ICT study was the first independent review in 13 years and concentrated on coordinated procurement and contracting. The review did cover Green ICT issues.

Some of the matters it covered were:

‘8 submissions believed that the Government should lead by example and more actively consider environmental factors as part of their ICT purchasing. This not only achieves cost savings (for example, through reduced power and cooling costs of more energy-efficient products) but supports the green agenda.

In 2008 the US Government implemented a blanket requirement to procure only Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT™) registered desktop computers, laptops and monitors. The US Environmental Protection Agency, using conservative assumptions, estimates that the government’s purchase of EPEAT™ registered computers over a 4-year time frame will:

  • save US$71.4 million in energy costs;

  • reduce energy use by 824 giga-watt hours, enough to power 72,630 households for a year;

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64,700 metric tons of carbon equivalent, which is equal to removing 51,317 cars from the road for a year.

These submissions recommended that a set of environmental criteria be established for Australian Government ICT purchases, and that it be made mandatory for government purchasing officers to use the criteria when evaluating tenders.

Other green initiatives that industry considered the Government could adopt include:

  • ‘purchasing products with a high ENERGY STAR® and EPEAT™ rating;

  • using energy calculators to compare potential savings;

  • enabling power management settings across client PC systems;

  • implementing virtualisation and consolidation technologies to maximise resources;

  • adopting mobile computing platforms and work practices; and

  • adopting centralised delivery models for applications, operating systems and data.’

There is an emerging issue around data centres and their long-term viability in terms of space, weight, cooling, power, the sustainability agenda, and current and anticipated availability requirements (1).

Further on in the Gershon report found:

‘There is a significant disconnect between the Government’s overall sustainability agenda and its ability to understand and manage its energy costs and the footprint of its ICT estate. This is evidenced by the lack of data agencies who were able to provide in relation to energy usage and costs.

For example, of the 72 agencies that were requested to answer the energy questions, 35 provided no data on energy, and a further seven provided inconsistent data. Only 23 agencies indicated that they had an energy plan, while 49 agencies advised that they did not have a plan in place. Of the 23 agencies that reported having an energy plan in place, 13 indicated that their energy plan included an ICT energy component; however, only six of those agencies were able to provide meaningful data in response to the questions asked in the survey….’(2)

The Gershon report continues on Green ICT issues:

‘Sustainability of ICT.

  1. Develop a whole-of-government ICT sustainability plan (in conjunction with DEWHA*) to manage the carbon footprint of the Government’s ICT activities.

  2. To better align the Government’s overall sustainability agenda and its ability to understand its energy costs and the footprint of its ICT estate, I recommend the development of an ICT sustainability plan.

  3. The ICT sustainability plan should:

  • identify which of the available standards (for example, EPEAT™) should be adopted as mandatory for relevant ICT acquisitions (the requirement to purchase green ICT equipment should be incorporated into the client code of conduct

  • include a whole-of-government ICT energy target, with agencies to report their progress towards the target; and

  • take into account potential implications of a carbon pollution reduction scheme.’ (2)

It also recommend that large agencies (with ICT spends in excess of $20 million) develop an ICT energy efficiency plan that can be either part of a wider agency energy efficiency plan, or freestanding. As a priority, agencies should measure their data centre energy efficiency (which may require the installation of electricity meters in some instances). Agencies should also include in their plan a target energy usage, including the power usage effectiveness of their data centres.

Larger agencies will need to undertake a periodic independent ICT energy assessment. Subject to agreement by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), agency plans will also be independently assessed by DEWHA, with results of the assessment reported to the Ministers for Finance and Deregulation, and Resources and Energy. Reporting of progress against the plan, should be in a way that is consistent with other reporting requirements such as the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Framework.

When procuring new ICT products and services, it is important that agencies consider their impact on the environment. AGIMO, in conjunction with DEWHA, should develop a green ICT procurement kit to support agencies regarding environmental issues in relation to ICT products and services. This should include raw material acquisition, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal.

‘In the interim, AGIMO should identify a possible list of quick wins in this area, such as software controlled automatic turn-off of PCs, based on the best practices already adopted by some agencies and in the private sector’(3)

The Rudd Government is examining the recommendations of the Gershon Review and will respond in the near future.

  1. Gershon Review 2.10

  2. Gershon Review 4.7

  3. Gershon Review 5.7.2

Last modified: Tuesday, 25 November 2008, 05:04 PM