ICT Sustainability

Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

An Online Graduate Course & Book by Tom Worthington MEd, FACS CP

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ICT systems can reduce energy and materials use by improving the efficiency of business systems by replacing the movement of goods with information (dematerialisation), improve the efficiency of machines (smart motor systems), logistics, buildings and grids.

The Climate Group detailed how these techniques could be used to reduce carbon emissions Chapter 3 "The enabling effect" and 4 "The SMART 2020 transformation" of their SMART 2020 report (2008).


Dematerialisation substitutes low carbon alternatives for high carbon products and services. Typical examples are replacing traveling to meetings with teleworking via computer and videoconferencing. Paper invoices can be replaced with electronic ones, reducing the use of paper and the energy needed to transport the paper.

However it cannot be assumed that every ICT system will result in a smaller energy use or that users will use the systems as expected. A server for e-commence may use more energy than the paper it is replacing. Teleworking may stimulate more face-to-face meetings for participants, rather than displace them.

Smart Motor Systems

Electric motors used in industry contribute a significant proportion of carbon emissions. Computer controlled variable-speed drives (VSD) can be used to reduce the power provided by the motor to the requirements of the task, thus saving energy and reducing emissions. The US Army use computer control of power generation to reduce fuel use at base camps (US Army Logistics Innovation Agency, 2013).

Smart Logistics

Logistics is the study of the management of the flow of goods from the point of production to consumption. Logistics was an early adopter of ICT systems. New techniques use Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to individually track items of inventory, Geographical information systems (GIS) to plan deliveries and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for Real time fleet tracking. UPS use GIS to plot efficient routes for parcel deliver (UPS, 2010).

Smart Buildings

Building Automation Systems (BAS) use a network of sensors to monitor conditions in a building and adjust the mechanical and lighting systems to minimise energy use using techniques such as Occupancy-based lighting and Demand control ventilation. The term 'smart buildings' is used more broadly to cover the design and construction of buildings using ICT. This can use Modeling and simulating energy consumption, Building design and simulation software. Buildings can also be equipped with technology to allow collaboration with remote workers, minimising the need for meeting rooms.

Smart Grids

Smart grids use ICT to control the delivery of electricity from suppliers to consumers to minimise energy loss and cost. This can be used to optimise the use of existing distribution and long distance transmission grids for distributing energy from existing large plants and for alternative energy production from small local solar, wind and cogeneration plants. Smart meters allow for consumers to adjust their energy use depending on cost and so be encouraged to reduce overall use.

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  1. Uses of energy in your organisation: Identify the major uses of energy in your organisation. Include references to your sources of information (with links to any web based information).
  2. Energy saving in your organisation: Describe where dematerialisation, smart motor systems, logistics, buildings or smart grids could be in your organisation. Detail any examples where they are used.

Next: Business Process Improvement.

About the book: ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

Edition Notice

ICT Sustainability is about how to assess, and reduce, the carbon footprint and materials used with computers and telecommunications. These are the notes for an award winning graduate course on strategies for reducing the environmental impact of computers and how to use the Internet to make business more energy efficient.

Copyright © Tom Worthington, 2018

Third edition.

Cover shows Power on-off symbol: line within a circle (IEC 60417-5010).

Latest version of materials available free on-line, under at Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license at http://www.tomw.net.au/ict_sustainability/

Previous edition, 2017:

ISBN: 9781326967949 (Hardback)
ISBN: 9781326958503 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781326967918 (PDF)
ISBN: 9781326958497 (ePub eBook via Lulu and Apple)
ASIN: B005SOEQZI (Kindle eBook)

Editions of these notes have been used for the courses:

  1. ICT Sustainability (COMP7310), in the Graduate Studies Select program, Australian National University (first run July 2009), and
  2. Green ICT Strategies (COMP 635), Athabasca University (Canada). Adapted for North America by Brian Stewart.
  3. Green Technology Strategies: offered in the Computer Professional Education Program, Australian Computer Society (first run as "Green ICT Strategies" in February 2009),