The enormous increase in the number of ICT applications also has a downside. ICT consumes energy and produces corresponding CO2 emissions. In fact, ICT accounts worldwide for some 2% of CO2 emissions. That is more than the aviation sector, which has already implemented a large number of measures to reduce such emissions.
ICT also accounts for about 10% of energy consumption. Where higher education is concerned, there are estimates that ICT consumes 20% of the total amount of energy consumed. A recent ICT survey showed that at universities of applied sciences [hogescholen] the percentage can rise to as much as 40%.
SURF is working with the higher education institutions to find ways of reducing ICT-related energy consumption in the sector. Two possible solutions are:
- making ICT itself “greener”: making the network infrastructure, the computer and data centres, and workstation equipment more energy-efficient;
- using ICT to make other things “greener”: using ICT to reduce energy consumption in the context of teaching, research, and organisation. This involves such things as working at home and videoconferencing rather than travelling. The real challenge as regards sustainability and ICT is to be found in this “enabling” role of ICT.
Businesses, government bodies, and civil-society organisations are increasingly looking for graduates with knowledge and skills in the field of sustainable development. Sustainable development therefore needs to be given a fundamental place in the curriculum at education institutions.
The importance of this matter has led to “Green ICT” and sustainable development being made one of the top priorities in SURF’s Strategic Plan for 2011–2014. Agentschap NL is involved in working out the long-term agreement on energy consumption in higher education. The Sustainable Higher Education Foundation (DHO) has already been working for the past ten years to ensure that sustainability is a core component of the higher education curriculum.
In addition to the results already achieved, SURF wishes to provide an overview of current activities in the field of green ICT and sustainable development in higher education. More background information is available in various publications.
SURF and sustainability
Sustainability and responsible use of human and natural resources has become a frequent topic of discussion. SURF – which consists of three organisations, each with its own focus: SURF, SURFnet and SURFdiensten – aims to make an active contribution to this.
SURFnet pursues a sustainable purchasing policy, closely monitors its energy consumption, and is working to make its services more sustainable. After analysing consumption, SURFnet puts the appropriate measures in place, with the results then being published. By sharing the results with the institutions, SURFnet aims to encourage them to also introduce such measures. Additional efforts will be made to achieve this in 2011 by means of an innovation programme for Sustainability & ICT. The programme will enable educational institutions to finance sustainable projects.
SURFdiensten is developing criteria for a sustainable purchasing policy. When fitting out its new office building, it also implemented the concept of “The New Way of Working”. This gives employees the option of working at locations other than the office, for example at home or while travelling. Less office space is then necessary, and the employee can also travel outside the rush hour, for example.
SURF has implemented the results of the pilot projects to study the energy consumption of ICT at a number of higher education institutions. It did this by means of “quick wins” and “good practices”. SURF and Agentschap NL are also enabling other higher education institutions to carry out an ICT survey. ICT can be made “greener” – and can help make other activities greener – by constantly identifying new developments and possibilities. SURF focuses not only on knowledge generation and knowledge transfer but also on promoting the integration of sustainable development into curriculums, particularly within ICT-related education programmes.
Gerard van Westrienen, project manager
Tel: +31 (0)30 234 6640