Another good contribution to the low carbon IT discussion came out today. GeSI and The Climate Group have now released the study done by McKinsey. It is quite similar to the one we and ECOFYS did with the support from HP (see www.panda.org/ict). McKinsey focus on four case studies and use their earlier abatement work (that is a slight problem as that model is not really done for areas with innovation).
For the first incremental changes there are however not much difference between the different studies that exist and the numbers in this report support earlier studies. The lack of work in the emerging economies (that we highlighted in our report) is becoming almost embarrassing and I really hope to get some work done with China Mobile, Wipro and other leading companies in China and India. Great with the two case studies from China and India in this report, really hope that we can get a really serious study done soon that covers China and India in depth. The report also includes a good about IT's own footprint, even if I think they have underestimated the saving potential and technology changes we will see (maybe it would be good to do a study about this?). What I think is the weak part (if used in the wrong way) is that it lacks is a concrete way forward that is not only about the low hanging fruits, as that can lead to high carbon lock-in. I hope that WWFs work, together with GeSI, Climate Group and others, can help people to focus more on the transformative aspects regarding real investments. Linear models are good for inspiration, but they should not be used to guide investments. Our work with Booz Allen Hamilton might contribute here.
The Press release
Smarter technology use could reduce global emissions by 15 per cent and save global industry EUR 500 billion in annual energy costs by 2020
Friday 20 June 2008 – Transformation in the way people and businesses use technology could reduce annual man-made global emissions by 15 per cent by 2020 and deliver energy efficiency savings to global businesses of over EUR 500 billion [GBP 400 billion/USD 800 billion], according to a new report published today by independent non-profit The °Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI).
The report – SMART 2020: enabling the low carbon economy in the information age – is the world’s first comprehensive global study of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector’s growing significance for the world’s climate. The report’s supporting analysis, conducted independently by international management consultants McKinsey & Company, shows that while ICT’s own sector footprint - currently two per cent of global emissions - will almost double by 2020, ICT’s unique ability to monitor and maximise energy efficiency both within and outside of its own sector could cut CO2 emissions by up to five times this amount. This represents a saving of 7.8 Giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2020 – greater than the current annual emissions of either the US or China.
Although tele-working, video-conferencing, e-paper, and e-commerce are increasingly commonplace, the report notes that replacing physical products and services with their virtual equivalents (dematerialisation and substitution) is only one part (six per cent) of the estimated low carbon benefits the ICT sector can deliver.
Far greater opportunities for emissions savings exist in applying ICT to global infrastructure and industry and the report examines four major opportunities where ICT can make further transformational cuts in global emissions. These exist globally within smart building design and use, smart logistics, smart electricity grids, and smart industrial motor systems.