Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

ICT and Smarter Energy

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Information and Communications Technology can play a major role in reducing the damage our energy use is causing to the environment and the climate.
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A big part of the energy comes from the burning of fossil fuels and results in the release of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, which is a major cause of climate change. Every day we use this energy in our homes, offices, vehicles, factories, shops, and therefore it's in our hands to reduce our energy consumption and CO2 emissions. ICT can be helpful to increase the energy efficiency, or to make more use of the wind and solar power.
 
Some applications of ICT are:
  • Buildings: ICT in the form of intelligent building management systems and sensor networks can save energy by heating or cooling only the parts of the building where it is really needed.
  • Energy grid: the so-called "smart grid" can help to reduce peak demand (saving the need for backup power generators) and better integrate energy from renewable sources into our supplies. 
  • Homes: ICT in the form of smart meters and smart appliances can make consumers aware of the energy used, and help them to reduce their energy consumption in real time, change their behaviour towards energy use and save money on their energy bills.
  • Smart city: ICT can also integrate energy generation and supply with transportation and mobility systems further reducing overall energy use, as well as making our lives easier by reducing congestion, speeding up our journeys and making vehicles safer. As more and more electrical vehicles take to the roads in the future, this integration between a smart electricity supply and citizens' transport and mobility needs will become even more important.

It is also true that ICT itself uses energy, both in a concentrated way such as datacentres, and in much more distributed ways such as the widescale use of smartphones, tablets and the energy needed for 3G/4G transmission. An smart innovative way of consuming energy for ICT itself should be addressed as well.

The right ICT

ICT can add costs to citizens and to city and regional authority budgets without achieving the benefits it promises they should. The wrong ICT could also lead to solutions that use more energy in terms of datacentres, networks and devices than they save. 
Standardised measurement is also important to help citizens and communities to make the right choices. A good degree of interoperability and use of open standards where appropriate, will help facilitate the uptake of the right technology by reducing costs and allow it to evolve more easily by reducing proprietary lock in.

By sharing experiences of developing smart city solutions, cities will help each other find what works well and what doesn't. This can be done through co-operative research, research and innovations networks such as the covenant of mayors and the European Innovation Partnership of Smart Cities and Communities.