IT Must Take Climate Lead, Say EC and UK Government

If CIOs can’t save the planet, no one can, says a UK green government champion tells eWEEK

The UK government is backing calls by European authorities for the IT industry to take a leadership role on cutting carbon emissions and develop technologies to combat climate.

Last week Viviane Reding (pictured below), EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media for the IT industry called for the ICT sector to lead development of new technologies to tackle climate change. The UK government is backing this challenge. according to an email statement sent to eWeek Europe UK by Catalina McGregor, founder and UK government deputy green champion for the CIO/CTO Council (a committee of public sector UK tech leaders).

“UK Government supports the continued drive from Viviane Reding and her team which has been simply exceptional over the past two years,” said McGregor. “The ICT sector as a whole is one of the single most dynamic industries in the world, we evolve and develop at a far higher pace than many other sectors combined (from R&D to product delivery) so if we cannot deliver significant new technologies and improvements to reducing CO2 then quite simply no one can.”

Late last week, Reding issued a statement calling on Europe’s IT industry to outline over the next 12 months how it plans to become 20 percent form energy efficient by 2015.

“Making better use of innovative ICT solutions will help us meet Europe’s objectives of a low-carbon economy. The ICT sector can show the way to a more sustainable, environmental-friendly growth and give a boost to green jobs in Europe,” said Reding. ” We must seize the chance to lead the way in energy-efficient technologies – not only because it is the best way to achieve sustainable cuts in CO2 emissions, but because the ecological potential of these technologies can open up new business opportunities for European ICT companies.

According to EC figures, IT equipment and services account for about 8 percent of electrical power used in Europe and about 2 percent of carbon emissions. However the commission also believes that IT can help tackle improve energy efficiency in other sectors such as building, transport and logistic and save around 15 percent of carbon emissions from these areas by 2020.

The EC singled out so-called smart grids as one way that IT can be used to drive down general emissions and improve energy efficiency. “Smart grids and smart metering systems can improve production efficiency and control, and the distribution and consumption of energy,” the EC said in a statement.

The commission added that member states have until the end of 2010 to agree on common specification for smart metering to provide consumers with better information and help them manage their energy consumption. “With smart metering in their homes, for example, consumers could reduce their energy consumption by as much as 10 percent. A timeframe for the roll out of smart metering in European households should be agreed at the latest by the end of 2012,” the EC stated.

The UK has been investigating the potential of smart metering and has set a target of rolling out the technology to all households by 2020 based on wider European targets.

Although smart meters may help consumers to reduce their energy use, the technology may not actually result in lower bills as last week energy regulator Ofgem released a report claiming that energy costs could rise by 60 percent by 2020.

But a spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said that it was wrong to suggest that the introduction of smart meter technology would be undone by price rises of up to 60 percent predicted by energy watchdog Ofgem. “Smart meters empower the consumer to see how much energy they are using and then they can go away and make as much saving as they want and if they make no savings then their bill will go up more than if they do make a saving,” the spokesperson said. “It is not going to negate it – it will still mean that consumers will be able to pro-actively save themselves money.”

Smart meters have also been attacked by utilities.

The EC has backed investments in green technologies, but similar calls from Ms Reding for IT to lead the way met scepticism from analyst Simon Perry in eWEEK Europe earlier this year.