Green ICT Sustainable Future for Australia 2020

Tom Worthington FACS HLM

Chair of the Green ICT Group, Australian Computer Society

For the ACS Green IT Special Interest Group, 23 April 2008, Canberra

The Australian Government is holding the Australia 2020 Summit at Parliament House on 17 April 2008. One thousand Australians have been invited to help with a long term strategy for the Australia's future.

How can ICT be used to help with an economically and environmentally sustainable future, in the face of falling stock markets and rising sea levels?

Australia 2020 Summit

On 3 February the Australian Government announced it will hold an Australia 2020 Summit at Parliament House in Canberra, 19 to 20 April 2008. One thousand Australians will be invited to help with a long term strategy for the Australia's future in ten areas:

Summit Topics

The item of most relevance to Green ICT is Sustainability and Climate Change, but Productivity, Australian Economy is also of interest.

Population, sustainability, climate change at 2020

Background paper: Population, Sustainability, Climate Change, Water and the Future of Our Cities (PowerPoint 2.05MB, also PDF 777KB).

Questions relevant to ICT: long-term sustainability priorities; increase energy efficiency and better manage demand; public conversation is needed about more sustainable consumption; transport policies and building codes make our cities more sustainable?

Some questions from the background paper:

  1. What are our long-term sustainability priorities, and how do they fit with our economic ambitions?
  2. What kinds of national responses are needed to manage the impacts of climate change, and what is the role of local action?
  3. What is required to increase cleaner energy production, increase energy efficiency and better manage demand? What role can Australia best play in world reduction of greenhouse emissions?
  4. That public conversation is needed about more sustainable consumption?
  5. How can we encourage households to be more involved in reducing emissions and waste?
  6. Water reform will require better incentives to use water well and create new water supplies. What needs to be done to make it work?
  7. In cities, how do we better manage total water resources including storm water and sewage?
  8. How can urban form, high quality design, transport policies and building codes make our cities more sustainable?

Australia 2020 Summit - Initial Report

Australia 2020 Summit - Initial Report ( WORD 2.6MB or PDF 1MB).

Every contribution has been carefully noted by scribes and a much more detailed Final Report of the Summit will be prepared next month for the Prime Minister and publication to the whole nation on the internet. ...

The Initial Report from the 2020 Summit to the Prime Minister, mentions "Internet" once. Broadband features in several sections on education, culture, consultation with government and regional development. There is no mention of ICT in relation to energy use or sustainability.

The Australia 2020 Summit - The Record

A more detailed record of the Summit will be available during next month. This record will include:

  • A more formal and detailed record of all the discussion sessions, picking up on the range of ideas put forward;
  • Overviews of the preliminary Summit events, including the Youth Summit, local summits and schools summit;
  • A strategic overview of the ideas raised in the public submission.

From: The Australia 2020 Summit - The Record, Australian Government, 2008

The web site for the summit promises a more detailed record during next month. Appropriate use of ICT could have allowed this to be done during the summit. It is unfortunate that the government did not plan for this, so it could be done in a timely and efficient way.

Top Ideas on Sustainability

... adopt a National Sustainability, Population and Climate Change Agenda and develop robust institutions to support it. ... national environmental accounts, including carbon and water ... investment could be directed into research, development and deployment to enable a low emissions energy revolution. ... tools to enable them to measure and manage their personal carbon footprint. This could include access to smart meters for energy and water consumption. ... Additional data/research required ...

From: Australia 2020 Summit - Initial Report, 2008

The Initial Report from the 2020 Summit has several areas in which ICT could help with the Top Ideas on Sustainability. One aspect is in ICT systems to help measure environmental accounts, conditions and provide efficient markets. Another is in education. Another is in more efficient ICT systems with a reduced carbon footprint.

Audit of Australian ICT Carbon Emissions

The ACS has undertaken an emissions audit on the amount of carbon dioxide being generated by ICT usage by Australian Businesses. The results of the audit indicate that ICT use by Australian Businesses generated 7.94Mt of carbon dioxide in 2005, equivalent to 1.52% of total national carbon dioxide emissions.


Comparing IT emissions and other industries

... ICT use by Australian Businesses generated 7.94Mt of carbon dioxide in 2005, equivalent to 1.52% of total national carbon dioxide emissions ... comparable in size to ... civil aviation ... 0.97% ...metal production ... 2.3% ... cement industry ... 1%. ...

From: ACS reveals ICT's Carbon Footprint, Media release, 16 August 2007

Quantifying IT emissions

This audit uses a base set of power consumption figures to calculate the demand/usage by each business. These base figures (per device) are then multiplied by the numbers of employees who use ICT equipment (for desktop/workstation computer contribution), server and LAN configuration (for computer network contribution), and telephone handset numbers (for office telephone system contribution) ... Workstation/Personal Computer 300 Watt full power 85 W standby ... Computer Monitor 75 W 5W ... High Performance Server 425 W ...

From: Audit of Carbon Emissions resulting from ICT usage by Australian Business, ACS, 16 August 2007

ACS Policy on Green ICT

The ACS recommended:

  1. Extending the Energy Rating System to ICT equipment for domestic and commercial use
  2. Innovative technologies to reduce power consumption
  3. Carbon offsets to help offset the emissions being produced by ICT equipment used in the office
  4. Virtualisation to replace servers
  5. Disable screen savers and implement ‘sleep mode’ for inactive equipment.


Broadband Power Consumption?

(iv) details of power consumption at both existing and new sites, covering: A.method of power supply to existing and new kerbside nodes, wireless base stations, including method of primary power provision (e.g. 240V AC from mains supply), power supply housed in node cabinet/base station, types of battery used, and hours of back up; B.provisions to maximise power efficiency, including the provision of low power or “sleep mode” operation for both network and customer terminal equipment; and C.intelligent active measures to increase energy efficiency in the network. ...

From: Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia, ATM ID DCON/08/18, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 11-Apr-2008

The Australian Government has taken power consumption into account somewhat in the Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia. The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has asked for details of power consumption and provisions to maximize power efficiency, including the provision of “sleep mode” for both network and customer terminal equipment. However, there are no energy efficiency requirements set and nor requirement the network be carbon neutral, use renewable energy sources or offset carbon emissions.

Green credentials in the buying decision: regulations

Australian and New Zealand energy efficiency regulators are proposing to recommend mandating energy performance standards from not earlier than October 2009, or more than 3 years after they were first adopted as Energy Star levels. ...

From: Steering Committee for Computers and Monitors, Equipment Energy Efficiency Team, Australian Greenhouse Office, 5 September 2007 (quoted by Tom Worthington)

Thin Client Low Power Computers

Zonbu miniature PC

Thin Client Linux Computer for Consumers

Zonbu , are offering a thin client Linux computer for $US249.00. They include a data storage service and the application software in the price. If you pay for more online storage on a long term plan the cost of the hardware is lower.

The hardware is a small PC (apparently made by MSTI and sold as the "eBox mini Green PC"):

  • 1.2 GHz Via Eden CPU (C7 Esther core)
  • VIA CX700M chipset
  • 512 MB RAM
  • Ethernet 10/100 Mbit/s
  • PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, VGA display port and 6 USB 2.0 ports
  • 4 GB CompactFlash local storage
  • Graphics up to 2048 x 1536 with 16 million colors – hardware graphics and MPEG2 acceleration

From: Zonbu, Wikipedia, 2007

In effect, the computer is sold in a similar way to a mobile phone plan: the more you pay for the monthly service and the longer you commit to the cheaper the hardware is. The service comes with and other typical Linux desktop software. A broadband Internet connection for the unit to be usable. This might be a good option for some home users and micro businesses. The business could simply plug the computer in and use it: if it breaks, then get another one, with the data stored on the remote on the server.

Larger businesses and government agencies could use the same hardware, but supplying their own servers for data and backup. Companies which use electronic document management systems could use those systems to store corporate documents created by the client computers.

Carbon Neutral Computers?



Zonbu claim carbon neutral computer:

With Zonbu, green doesn't have to make you blue! With its efficient ultra low power design, Zonbu delivers the power of a traditional desktop computer but uses just a fraction of the energy. That could mean as much as $10 a month in energy savings for you — and might just help save the planet, too. Not only does Zonbu's low power design reduce CO2 emissions, but by buying carbon offsets, we make the operation of your Zonbu device completely carbon neutral. Talk about guilt-free computing!

From: Good things come in small boxes, Zonbu, 2007

Via claim Carbon Free Computing:

VIA Carbon Free Computing addresses this issue head on, aimed at offering the world's first line of PC products certified Carbon Free. VIA works with environmental experts to calculate the electricity used by an average Carbon Free Computing product over its lifetime (assumed to be 3 years). Then from the amount of electricity used, VIA calculates how much carbon dioxide emissions will be released into the environment mainly as a result of fossil fuel burning power plants, and then works with regional offset organizations to "offset" that amount of carbon dioxide through projects such as: * Reforestation ... Alternative Energy ... Energy conservation ...

From: VIA Carbon Free Computing - Breathe Easier!,VIA, 2007

Thin Clients for Business?

Thin client computers can offer benefits beyond environmental ones. As an example thin clients can replace desktop PCs for those workers only needing standard office applications. The thin client can also replace a digital telephone. Corporate applications, such as payroll and finance can be provided to the desktop using the web browser and interactive web applications, such as AJAX. Corporate documents can be retained in central file servers and Electronic Document Management Systems. This removes the need to maintain as much software on the desktop and increases the security of corporate data.

Servers can be consolidated into efficient and easier to manage data centers. These can take advantage of low power disks, processors and green power.

Wireless Hand Held

Smart Phones:

  1. Low power
  2. Can run adapted web applications

Low Carbon Web Application Design

Poorly designed PDF documents:

  1. One Hundred Times the storage requirements of XML
  2. May produce 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas per year in one Canberra data centre

Professionals on Green Issues

The ICT Environmental Sustainability Group ("Green ICT") brings together professionals interested in balancing economic and environmental aspects of information technology and telecommunications. It is a special interest group of the Australian Computer Society. The group aims to hold joint meetings with other professional bodies interested in technology, the environment and sustainability.

FAQs on Green ICT Issues

More Information

Slides for these notes are also available.

Copyright © 2008 Tom Worthington

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