Green ICT

As part of the regulatory environment in the UK (Climate Change Act 2008; UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, 2009) a key performance target for the Higher Education Funding Council for England is to comply with the requirement to reduce carbon emissions in the HE sector by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 (against 1990 levels). In 2009 Jisc funded a short project to provide broad estimates of energy use and carbon emissions from ICT services in London’s higher education (HE) sector.  A network of 19 HE institutions was established and 11 completed a carbon foot printing toolkit produced by Suste-IT during 2010.

Total energy use in ICT was estimated to vary between 330,000 to 5,000,000 kWh per year for a range of small (creative and/or specialist) and medium-sized HE institutions.  Extrapolating from all energy returns, including one large research intensive university, it was estimated the HE sector in London annually uses 170 million kWh, costing £20.4 million and contributing 91 kilotonnes of CO2.  Highest energy use was estimated to be in the operation of PCs and servers followed by imaging and networks.  ICT operations in London’s HE sector are equivalent to:

Semi-structured interviews indicated most institutions had implemented or were implementing areas highlighted in the Low Carbon ICT Roadmap for 2009 and 2010, such as improving data centres, energy efficient PCs and rationalising printing services. Several were also experimenting with increased settings for temperature and humidity in data centres (~ 25oC and 50% RH).  A number of HEIs have started or are considering using cloud-based email services, mostly for students rather than staff.  However, very few in the HE sector appeared to be making changes to procurement or using videoconferencing.