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Energy Consumed vs. Energy Saved by ICT – A Closer Look

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Shaker Verlag


For quite some years now, there has been a growing debate under the label of “Green I(C)T” about reducing the energy consumption of ICT equipment. More recently, the discourse started to partly shift towards a novel discussion on using ICT to induce energy savings in sectors other than ICT. Advocates suggest that the cumulated potential for ICT-induced savings is several times larger than the entire energy consumption of ICT itself. Numerous studies on ICT-related energy consumption exist, and also an increasing number of studies looking at ICT-induced energy efficiency. The few studies, however, considering both aspects, typically do so independently, without relating the two aspects. Moreover, in the energy efficiency discourse, ICT is usually treated as a monolithic block of technologies – only the application areas that are expected to benefit from it being differentiated. In this paper, we make the case that ICT energy consumption and ICT’s potential for inducing energy efficiency can – and should – be related to each other. We further argue that this can only be obtained by decomposing the “ICT monolith” and look at its (naturally heterogeneous) parts separately. Based on a first round of expert interviews, we show that it is possible to qualitatively determine for every single technology subsumed under ICT its potential for inducing energy efficiency. We finally argue that only by consequently following low energy consumption targets for technologies with a low energy efficiency potential, while at the same time not suffocating technologies with a high energy efficiency potential through restrictive consumption targets, the full ICT-related energy saving potential can be unleashed.


Coroama, Vlad; Hilty, Lorenz M. (2009): Energy Consumed vs. Energy Saved by ICT – A Closer Look. Environmental Informatics and Industrial Environmental Protection: Concepts, Methods and Tools. Aachen: Shaker Verlag. Shaping a Single Information Space for the Environment. Berlin. 2009