Published on: 2013-06-26

27th June 2013, Brussels– Increased use of cloud computing services will reduce the dependence on energy and help reduce global environmental damage with savings of over US$2.2 billion (€1.65 billion) and is 95% more efficient where 1 tonne of greenhouse gas (GHG) created by cloud leads to 20 tonnes abated from customers according to the findings of a study released today by a research team from Harvard University, Imperial College and Reading University, sponsored by Microsoft Europe and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI).

The study claims that 11.2 TWh less energy will be consumed annually by the time 80% of public and private organisations in the countries studied opt to provide cloud-based email, customer relationship management and groupware solutions to their staff, beyond current levels of adoption.  This translates to75% of the energy consumed by the Capital Region of Brussels or 25% of the energy consumed by London.  It is equivalent to abating 4.5 mega tonnes of CO2 emissions annually or taking1.7+ million cars off the road.  60 per cent of these potential savings relate to small or micro-sized firms.

Dr Peter Thomond, who led the study, explains The findings show, contrary to the perception of power hungry data centres, that the energy efficiency of cloud infrastructure and its ‘embedded carbon’ outperform on-site services by an order of magnitude. This is only 3 cloud applications, there are hundreds more.”

The study entitled “The Enabling Technologies of a Low-Carbon Economy- a Focus on Cloud Computing” examines both the energy savings and GHG abatement potential of cloud computing in 11 countries – Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Indonesia, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the UK.

“Cloud-based email, CRM and groupware are only the tip of the iceberg. In 2012, GeSI published the SMARTer2020 study that found that large-scale, systems-enabled broadband and information and communication technologies could deliver a 16.5% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions and save up to US$1.9 trillion in savings by 2020.” says Luis Neves, GeSI Chairman.

The study observes hurdles to the broad adoption of cloud-based services created by both vendor and government action.  National policy-making creates uncertainty, even in positive policy documents such as China’s 12th Five Year Plan of Social and Economic Development and Britain’s Carbon Reduction Commitment which provide a strong public pledge to reduce GHG emissions:

  • few government policies genuinely embrace the enabling potential of the ICT sector treat it more as part of the problem and less part of the solution;
  • government intent and targets are neither clear nor justified; and
  • governments often fail to embrace the full range of policy instruments at their disposal, in particular, there is an under utilisation of government leading by example.

“It would help market adoption if more governments walked their talk when providing their services, or considering service procurement.”Dr. Thomond comments. “This said the ultimate responsibility for the spread of enabling technologies, such as cloud, naturally lies with vendors, and they too need to act fast to overcome barriers to adoption.  We need stronger economic cases for cloud, more credible, impartial evidence of how specific services enable GHG abatement, less one-size-fits all marketing approaches and more acknowledgment that the shift to cloud creates behaviour change challenges, too.”

“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”, adds Luis Neves, GeSI Chairman. “This GeSI-supported study on the carbon abatement potential of cloud computing offers the first academically rigorous and industrially relevant study of its kind. We are pleased to contribute to the growing body of evidence that demonstrates how information and communication technologies are key enablers of the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

About the study
The study will be launched at an EU Sustainable event on 27th June and also made available to the public at the Global e-Sustainability Initiative website (


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