Researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, TeliaSonera and Ericsson have published a unique study which maps out the climate impact of the Swedish Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. Despite a rapid growth in the use of computers and mobile phones in Sweden, emissions per user are low.
The study is the result of research collaboration between TeliaSonera, Ericsson and KTH Centre for Sustainable Communications (CESC). It is the most comprehensive study of this kind to date, and maps out in detail the carbon footprint of the entire Swedish ICT sector from an energy consumption perspective.
The Swedish ICT sector has grown significantly in the last ten years and now represents 1.2 percent of Sweden's total carbon footprint according to the researchers' calculations. This is equal to 160 kg carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) per person and year, or the emissions from a car ride of approximately 700 kilometers.
Included in the scope of the calculations is ICT infrastructure (servers, data centers, cables, etc.) and the manufacturing and use of communications equipment such as computers, mobile phones, tablets and modems.
"The challenge lies in limiting the climate impact of the ICT sector so that it does not keep increasing. One implication of the study is that in theory, the energy consumption in the network can be reduced by 75 percent immediately if the most modern and energy efficient equipment on the market was used," says Dag Lundιn, TeliaSonera.
"Another important aspect is in increasing how long equipment, like smart phones and laptops are used. The manufacturing of these products accounts for a large share of the ICT sector's greenhouse gas emissions," says Εsa Moberg, KTH.
70 percent of Sweden's ICT related CO2e emissions originate from the manufacturing and use of personal equipment such as computers, mobile phones and tablets. Energy saving features in these products as well as in the network equipment (modems, routers and servers) would enable major savings during periods when the traffic volume in the network is low.
Data centers account for the majority of the remaining 30 percent of ICT related emissions. There are still big opportunities to reduce the energy consumption, especially in cooling solutions. Sweden, with its cold climate, is thus an ideal location for large data centers.
"The greatest carbon enablement potential for the ICT industry lies in limiting the climate impact of travel, transportation, buildings and other sectors. An example is TeliaSonera's Swedish operations where emissions from travel and offices have decreased more than 50 percent through utilizing its own technology such as tele- and videoconferencing to meet and work remotely," says Jens Malmodin, Ericsson.
The results of the study are presented in a scientific article published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
- Jens Malmodin, Dag Lundιn, Εsa Moberg, Greger Andersson, Mikael Nilsson. Life Cycle Assessment of ICT. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12145
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