Growth threatens benefits of green IT

The IT industry risks being trapped in a vicious circle where the worldwide growth in the use of computers erodes any gains in lowered carbon emissions from more energy efficient products.

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The IT industry risks being trapped in a vicious circle where the worldwide growth in the use of computers erodes any gains in lowered carbon emissions from more energy efficient products.

Speaking at the Green Corp conference in London, Richard Barrington, head of sustainability and public policy at Sun Microsystems, said disruptive technologies were needed to address carbon emissions from IT and that one of the biggest challenges faced by the industry was coping with the growth of its market.

"To achieve 60% carbon reduction, if the world just stood still would be challenge. But the reality is that the amount of IT on planet will have more than doubled by 2020.

"IT will allow some displacement through different working patterns and less travelling but I don't think we'll see massive displacement so the answer has to be low carbon emitting disruptive technologies," said Barrington.

Barrington called for a rethink of the datacentre. Traditional datacentres, he said, had been developed at a time when energy use wasn't a consideration. Now businesses needed to establish cross function teams to build low energy datacentres. “There is a very difficult balancing act to be done given the massive growth opportunities," he said.

Paul Dickinson, chief executive of the Carbon Disclosure Project which measures company's carbon impact, says: "I don't why heat from datacentres is not recycled already. People designing the ICT infrastructure need to consider energy use. That will be a start and it has to happen because there is so much more growth coming."

He added:"It is true that there will be more computers, more and cars and more aeroplanes. Society makes a decision where to put its money. The IT industry needs to wake to the opportunity for creating new low carbon economies.

“If the full genius of Intel, HP, BT and Cisco, can be brought to bear on architecting different economies, then there is hope. While they are all producing carbon, Vodafone produces 200 times the profit per tonne of carbon generated than BA. Money is going to away from the physical world to the dematerialised world."

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