Does cloud computing really offer a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in China?

16th October 2012

16 October 2012, ShenzhenThe increased use of cloud computing services by businesses in China can reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 2 mega tonnes, according to the preliminary findings of a study released today by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI). This is equivalent to the removal of over 700,000 cars from Chinese roads and would create nation-wide savings in energy bills of almost 900 million Yuan.

With a goal of investigating the link between the increased use of cloud computing services and greenhouse gas reductions, the study entitled “The Enabling Technologies of a Low-Carbon Economy- a Focus on Cloud Computing” examines the carbon abatement potential of cloud computing in China, as well as Canada, Brazil and 7 European countries.

The study reveals a number of important insights concerning the carbon abatement potential of cloud computing in China assuming that 80 per cent of all organisations across the country adopt the technology, while permanently switching off their on-premise servers.

Two mega tonnes is just the beginning as the study focused upon readily available cloud-based email, customer relationship management (CRM) and groupware applications.  It shows these cloud computing services offer a carbon abatement potential within China of 1.9 Mt CO2e, which would create approximately 143 million USD or 899 million Yuan of economy-wide savings in energy bills. Around 65 per cent of these potential savings relate to small or micro-sized firms.

The study is being conducted by the Think Play Do Group, a spin-out from Imperial College London, with the support of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and GeSI member Microsoft. It has been validated by researchers at Reading University and the Harvard Business School. The China-specific findings of the study were announced today in conjunction with the GeSI workshop “Connected City- the Greener Future”. The full study will be published in early 2013.

“Cloud-based email, CRM and groupware are only the tip of the iceberg. In 2008, GeSI published the SMART2020 study that found that large-scale, systems-enabled broadband and information and communication technologies could deliver a 15 per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions and save up to EUR 600 billion by 2020.” said Luis Neves, GeSI Chairman.   

The study, however, notes the lack of a clear policy roadmap in China, which may cause barriers to the broad adoption of cloud-based services such as email, CRM and groupware. Dr Peter Thomond who has led the research for the Think Play Do Group observed, “Policy documents, such as China’s 12th Five Year Plan of Social and Economic Development, provide a strong public commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a clear commitment to using technology to help solve this challenge. Yet, some key policy documents do not offer a clear roadmap for the implementation of such goals, especially aligning regional and national goals, which could create uncertainly amongst vendors and a cautiousness that hinders market uptake.” 

“GeSI has taken a strong commitment to demonstrate the enabling potential of cloud computing in how it can tackle the difficult issue of climate change and boost economies”, added Luis Neves, GeSI Chairman. “This GeSI-supported study on the carbon abatement potential of cloud computing offers the first truly academically rigorous and industrially relevant study of its kind and makes a fine contribution to the growing body of evidence showing that information and communication technologies are a key enabler of the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

A summary of the China-related findings of the study is available here.

About GeSI:

The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) is a strategic partnership of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector and organisations committed to creating and promoting technologies and practices that foster economic, environmental and social sustainability. Formed in 2001, GeSI’s vision is a sustainable world through responsible, ICT-enabled transformation. GeSI fosters global and open cooperation, informs the public of its members’ voluntary actions to improve their sustainability performance, and promotes technologies that foster sustainable development. GeSI has 31 members representing leading companies and associations from the ICT sector. GeSI also partners with two UN organizations - the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) - as well as a range of international stakeholders committed to ICT sustainability objectives. These partnerships help shape GeSI’s global vision regarding the evolution of the ICT sector, and how it can best meet the challenges of sustainable development. For more information, see www.gesi.org.

Contact:

Alice Valvodova
Executive Director
Global e-Sustainability Initiative
Email: alice.valvodova@gesi.org
Tel: +32 2 282 8442
www.gesi.org