Green IT is a goldmine, not a burden

Industry analyst Bruce McCabe says companies innovating around sustainability tech stand to make billions over the next decade.

The IT industry should view the buzz around green technology as an opportunity, rather than a compliance burden, according to industry analyst Bruce McCabe.

Speaking at CeBIT Australia's eGovernment Forum, McCabe said the IT industry should not limit its "green" or sustainable ICT efforts to the cutting down of power usage within datacenters. Rather, the industry should see it as an opportunity to innovate and profit.

"Datacenters make up 1.5 percent of electricity use in the U.S.--not an insignificant amount," McCabe said. "But computer science will have a part to play in the other 98.5 percent of energy use."

There will be big opportunities, he said, for developers of sensor networks, analytical software, teleconferencing systems and online services in a world where carbon accounting is mandated.

Carbon-emission reporting to date has been voluntary and based on estimates, McCabe noted, with none of the major consulting firms having any significant experience in conducting such audits.

But McCabe said he expects compliance reporting to mature--both in terms of regularity and use of technology. It will move from annual and quarterly reports on a per-company basis, to daily and hourly, if not continuous reporting, at the level of the individual product or process. Carbon-credit trading will also be used inside organizations, he said, with business units trading credits in an endeavour to make the overall organization more energy efficient.

McCabe said he also expects the concept behind carbon credits to be transferred to other areas of environmental concern, such as water and waste.

U.K. supermarket giant Tesco plans to label some products with a rating system that informs consumers as to the carbon footprint required to take that product from raw material to the Tesco shelf. US retail giant Wal-Mart and Australia's Woolworths are also looking at similar strategies in their own supply chain--all of which will require significant IT investments.

McCabe noted that there has been an outflow of venture capital money from IT and a huge inflow into sustainability technology.

McCabe said organizations that innovate around sustainability technology "will make billions, if not trillions, over the next decade out of this social challenge".

"The most amazing catalyst in [Australia] has been the signing of Kyoto and the aggressive national carbon-trading targets set," he said. "Any innovation that flows from that is exportable to a large global market."