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Expert and stakeholder consultation workshop on Research on Green ICT 2020-2030

The volume of data and the need to process them will increase enormously in the next decade. At the same time addressing climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Thus society requires fundamental shifts in technology, economics and finance. ICT will play a crucial role in this transition and experts agree on the need to further invest in green data centres.

image of digital with a green heart in the middle, just an illustration
Thinkstock - image of digital with a green heart in the middle, just an illustration

The 2C-target calls for an almost complete decarbonisation of the energy sector and significant CO2-emission reductions in the transport sector. These sectors as well as many other will rely largely on the use of ICT technologies and services to achieve their targets. While the energy efficiency of ICT components and end user equipment has drastically improved, the pace of implementing existing innovative technologies and developing radically more efficient solutions for Cloud Computing (Data Centres and Telecoms networks) need to be accelerated for meeting the 2C-target. A study commissioned by the European Commission showed that while there are significant improvements in the energy consumption of end user ICT devices such as mobile phones, computers, TVs, etc. which will contain the growth of energy consumption of this category going forward, the energy consumption of data centres and telecommunication networks will grow with an alarming rate of 35% and 150% respectively over 9 years. According to data from the PEDCA project, European data centres consumed more than 3% of total electricity in 2015. Some emerging trends such as the Internet of Things, Edge Computing, Artificial Intelligence, SDN/NFV and block chain, to name a few,  will further accelerate this growth. Without decisive, fast and sizeable action, this growth will seriously jeopardise the achievement of the Paris Agreement and EU sustainability goals.

It was with this goal that the European Commission organised a Consultation Workshop with invited experts and stakeholders in the data centre field on the 5th of February 2018 to discuss “research and innovation activities (2020-2030)” concerning Green ICT - specifically in relation to data centres and telecommunications networks. The objective was to identify areas of research and innovation which justified intervention at European level (where national programmes were either non-viable or likely have diverging outcomes). 

The invited experts recommended approaching the issue in a comprehensive manner by focusing on:

  • ICT equipment efficiency (e.g. data processing technologies to improve “energy consumption per transaction", new forms of data storage solutions as well as tools and frameworks to allow designers to make trade-off analysis between efficiency, usability, performance and other quality attributes)
  • Energy management (e.g. new energy storage solutions, new cooling technologies and environmental control systems as well as dynamic environmental control)
  • Supporting enabling actions (e.g. tools for data collection at a de-centralised, national level, from the widest range of data centre operators in an anonymous manner and a Europe-wide mapping of connectivity resources (in terms of bandwidth) to power supply capacity).

They also recommended organising the European intervention as a coherent programme comprising research, innovation and supporting actions fostering scientific breakthroughs, piloting them, creating the right ecosystem and supporting measures and ultimately taking them to market.

For further details and insights in the conclusions of this workshop of 5 February 2018, you can consult the full report.