4. A Digital Europe

4.3 Greening ICT

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are providing solutions to mitigate climate change and, at the same time, they leave a global footprint. R&I is essential for more sustainable/green data centres and supercomputers.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) can provide solutions to address climate change.

In its 2009 Recommendation, the European Commission outlines a framework to ‘mobilise ICTs to facilitate the transition to an energy-efficient, low-carbon economy’, considering the potential of ICT to enhance energy efficiency. Indeed, ICTs can act as enablers of a low- (or even zero-) carbon economy.

As a result, ICTs can enable the ‘smartification’ of many aspects of our economies – i.e. smart cities, smart grids, smart mobility, smart governments, smart businesses, smart buildings, etc. –  which reduce the environmental impact across sectors.

R&I is essential to move towards ‘green ICT’.

At the same time, there is a need to reduce the global footprint of ICT which is being fostered by the digital transformation of the economy.

With growing digitalisation and ever-larger data flows, the need for both network capacity and computing power has increased enormously, which may raise energy demand. For example, this is the case in the field of artificial intelligence.

R&I can be fundamental in the move towards ‘green ICT’ – i.e. by exploring and creating new ways of making cloud computing and data centres energy efficient, telecom operations powered by renewables, and by generating smart devices.

At the EU level, for example, the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will develop a ‘world-class supercomputing ecosystem in Europe’ that will also use R&I to develop a low-power processor.

Visual representation of the impact of ICT on greenhouse gas emissions

Visual representation of the impact of ICT on greenhouse gas emissions
Source: DG Research and Innovation, Chief Economist - R&I Strategy & Foresight Unit based on Global e-Sustainability Initiative (2015) and presentation by Richard Labelle (2014)
Click to enlarge
4.4 Skills for the digital age