ICT departments will lead the way in sustainability: forum

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ICT departments will lead the way in sustainability: forum

ICT departments will have to measure their carbon emissions and find ways to reduce them. That’s the message from the recent AIIA Sustainability Forum in Melbourne.

Ian Birks, AIIA CEO, welcomed the forum by quoting the most influential statistics in the Green ICT sector.

“The ICT industry is responsible for two per cent of all carbon emissions, equivalent to the airline industry” he said, quoting a study by Gartner in September 2005.

“But it’s easy to make changes. By banning the use of screensavers – with screens going into power saving mode instead – ANZ was able to cut four per cent of its annual electricity usage, saving $500,000 per year.

Birks told the forum that the ICT industry could be a key enabler of change in the spectrum of environmental sustainability.

“The ICT industry is very conscious of reducing the carbon footprint of their own infrastructure. ICT technologies are set to play a critical role in environmental change outside the ICT industry,” he said.

Extended product responsibility might come to Australia, Birks said.

In the European Union, extended product responsibility makes manufacturers accountable for the environmental impact of their products throughout the product’s lifetime.

In the Australia ICT industry, this could impact hardware like monitors, hard drives and CPUs.

“In Europe I haven’t seen a focus on that marticular sector in this area to date. It’s mostly packaging, batteries, car tyres, etc. I’m sure the push will come.”

Bob Hayward, KMPG, pointed out that under a carbon trading scheme, Victorian companies were at a disadvantage because all of the power generated in VIC comes from brown coal burning.

He said that the carbon trading scheme could take $15-20 billion out of the economy, which essentially made it a tax.

“With the carbon trading scheme, the government has finally found a way to tax the air we breathe.”

Within an office environment, Hayward said, ICT can consume more than 50 per cent of power costs. He cited the case of one bank which discovered that 50 per cent of its energy usage was consumed in one room – the data centre.

Hayward said that Epping and North Ryde in Sydney, areas which host numerous data centres, could not handle any more power consumption.

The same problem was occurring in the Gold Coast, he said, and predicted that rolling brown-outs might be used there to cope with demand.

Nick Edgerton, AMP Capital, said that most ICT departments have no idea about their energy usage.

“56 per cent of ICT departments say that they don’t see the bills from their energy usage,” said Edgerton. “This hinders them from being engaged with their own usage.”

He predicted that this will change in the future, as ICT departments are increasingly held responsible for their own power usage. Carbon accountants will appear in more organisations to evaluate their emissions.

“The new world of carbon accounting is a great time to re-evaluate your company,” said Edgerton.

Hayward agreed that the return on investment for energy savings should be clear.

“There should be a lot of lemonade we can squeeze from this lemon,” he said.
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