As cloud computing ramps up, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95 percent, leading to savings of more than $2.2 billion, according to a study sponsored by Microsoft Europe and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI). Expanding cloud usage beyond the basics to large-scale information and communication technology (ICT) will scale those savings up to $1.2 trillion, GeSI says.
Researchers from Harvard University, Imperial College and Reading University explored cloud computing’s impact on lowering GHG in Europe, Brazil, China, Canada, and Indonesia. They claim that energy usage will drop by 11.2 TWh annually when 80 percent of public and private organizations in those regions opt to provide cloud-based email, customer relationship management (CRM) and groupware solutions to their staff, going beyond current levels of adoption.
To put it in perspective, this equals 75 percent of the energy consumed by the capital region of Brussels or 25 percent of the energy consumed by London. It is equivalent to abating 4.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, the study says. And 60 percent of these potential savings relate to small firms.
Cloud infrastructure outperforms on-site services and power-hungry data centers, according to lead researcher Peter Thomond. He says that for every metric ton of GHG emissions generated by a cloud vendor that provides email, CRM and groupware, 20 metric tons are reduced for its clients.
The study 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.
GeSI, which is a partnership of the ICT sector, says that cloud-based email and CRM is only the tip of the iceberg and large-scale broadband and information and communication technology could deliver a 16.5 percent reduction in GHGs and save up to $1.9 trillion in savings by 2020.
The new Microsoft/GeSI study says vendors and governments have created hurdles to wider adoption of cloud-based services. Thomond says governments can influence wider adoption of cloud computing if they use it for their own services, although the ultimate responsibility lies with cloud vendors. More evidence of the cloud’s ability to reduce GHGs and acceptance of the challenges that come with behavioral changes when shifting to the cloud will help convince the public, he says.
Last week, GeSI partnered with EcoVadis to launch an online platform that monitors sustainability practices in the ICT sector supply chains. The Electronic Tool for Accountable Supply Chains (E-TASC) supply chain monitoring software from EcoVadis will allow the ICT industry to access data and scorecards, covering 21 environmental and social criteria. The data is adapted to the specific regulations and CSR issues covering more than 150 purchasing categories and suppliers in more than a 95 countries, GeSI says.