Saturday, 21 May 2011

What about green computing?

What about green computing?

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing us in the 21st century. Green computing is a hot topic nowadays but what exactly is it? And can ICT (or information communication technologies) really help to stop global warming?

Is ICT green?

ICT is currently estimated to be responsible for 2% of the carbon emissions in Europe. According to some reports this is equal to the amount of carbon produced by the aviation industry and it’s still growing!

However it’s not all bad news. ICT has the potential to actually help us cut carbon emissions, as well as the amount of energy we use, in all aspects of our lives and businesses. Accoring to some reports if we use ICT we could help to reduce our total carbon emissions by some 15% by 2020 and the amount of energy they can save could even outweigh the energy they consume by five to ten times.

Computing to make us green

ICT could help cut carbon emissions in two ways:

1) It can be used to provide technological solutions that help all sectors of the economy to reduce their energy usage. For example recent studies suggest that ICTs could reduce energy consumption in buildings by up to 17% by cutting energy in areas such as lighting. Simple solutions such as holding video conferences rather than flying to meet international colleagues can also help us become greener.

2) ICTs can help people precisely measure their energy consumption, so they can make informed decisions on whether and how to change their lifestyle. For example smart metering can provide consumers with detailed information about their energy usage patterns, allowing them to control their power needs and save money.

Where do grids fit in?

Innovative technologies such as grid computing and virtualisation can play a key role in making us greener – helping to reduce redundancy, and therefore, energy, in a given service.

For small or medium sized companies, using distributed computing such as the ‘cloud’ can offer savings in greenhouse gas emissions. While it is important to ensure emissions are not simply offloaded to an outside source, dedicated server hosts often make more efficient use of a processor’s computing power, and so lead to an overall decrease in energy use.

Utility computing can result in real reductions in carbon footprints, and distributed computing can help us increase our knowledge of climate change too. Volunteer computing has allowed projects such as climateprediction.net to calculate models of the changing climate all the way up to 2080. ICT is helping us all move towards a greener future.

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