by Benedicte Fasmer Waaler
In September 2007, fourteen members of the trade organization ICT Norway joined forces in a project named ‘Green IT’. The goal of this project, which has grown to include 35 members, is to raise awareness of the link between climate change and the use of ICT.
The project is not simply a buzzword that aims to market energy-saving devices. We see IT as a source of CO2 pollution, but also as an opportunity to make large gains. We believe that we must take responsibility for the problems we create if we wish to credibly claim to be ‘part of the solution’.
We strongly advise our members to certify themselves, either through ISO 14001 or as Norwegian ‘Eco-beacons’ (a Norwegian method for environmental certification of businesses with less than 300 employees). We work closely with the authorities responsible for ‘green procurement’. We aim to inform our customers of best practice in procurement, use and end-of-life. We work closely with our Danish and Swedish sister organizations to spread best practice across the borders, as well as with Elretur, a very effective recycling and reuse program for ICT equipment.
Our project has chosen to focus on best practice in the use of ICT, since both European and Norwegian authorities have documented the potential for ICT solutions to reduce CO2 emissions by 15 percent (see link below). We see many ways in which ICT can make a significant contribution to European CO2 levels, such as smart Grids, smart buildings and smart transportation. In addition to these three sectors, which are ripe for the use of smart ICT, we see two areas in which the Norwegian use of ICT can make a difference to CO2 levels in Norway and Europe: video conferencing to reduce travel, and green data centres.
Norway: Clean Electricity and Long Distances
Norway’s electricity is 99 percent hydroelectric and our goal is to produce and export more renewable energy. The country’s vast coastline and sparse population mean that travel and transportation – which use fossil fuels – account for a huge proportion of the country’s CO2 accounting.
The smart use of ICT to replace and reduce travel and transportation will help Norway meet its Kyoto goals. But it also important because we can set a good example and inspire others to use the technology in the same way.
The Norwegian governmental agency NAV, for example, has made extensive use of video conferencing. Its experiences of the potential gains as well as what is necessary to reap these gains, are valuable – not only to other governmental agencies, but to other potential users. The Green IT project believes that the large public sector in Norway can and should reduce use of air travel by as much as 20 percent.
Another excellent example of Norwegian use of video conferencing is telemedicine in the north of Norway, where doctors use the new technology to meet patients virtually rather than physically. Researchers in Tromsø estimate that the equivalent of eight and a half planes full of Norwegian patients fly each day to doctors’ appointments (planes used in the north are generally small with only a few seats). An estimated 80 percent of these appointments are planned check-ups for chronically ill patients, many of whom could easily replace their plane ride with a virtual meeting.
Green Data Centres
Norway has, as previously stated, an abundance of stable, ‘clean’ electricity from 160 hydroelectric power plants . Norway is economically, geologically and politically stable and the broadband capacity within and out of Norway is good. We thereby fulfill many of the criteria used by large international companies in deciding where to locate their modern ‘cloud’ data centres.
Data centres need stable electricity, and alternative power sources such as wind and solar will not be stable enough in the foreseeable future. Norway also has ambitions to produce and export even more renewable energy. As of today, however, the power grids are not sturdy enough to enable us to transport more power, and several areas have had to reduce their production of hydroelectric power because it was difficult to transport it out of the region. Moreover, there is always a loss of at least 7 % in the grid.
Instead, we propose to add value to the clean energy by transforming it into bits and bytes. The EU used an estimated 34 Twh of electricity in their data centres in 2007. We believe that moving some of this activity to Norway, where the energy is green, could benefit the climate.
Benedicte Fasmer Waaler
Project Manager, ICT Norway
Tel: + 47 45 00 21 06