Green tech is a goldmine, not a burden

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

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

Speaking at CeBIT's eGovernment Forum today, McCabe said the IT industry shouldn't limit its green or "sustainable" ICT efforts on the cutting down on power use within datacentres, but see it as an opportunity to innovate and profit.

-Datacentres make up 1.5 per cent of electricity use in the United States — 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.

The computer systems required to meet government reporting requirements on carbon emissions, McCabe notes, is expected to cost Australian companies AU$1 billion a year for the next seven years.

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

But McCabe expects compliance reporting to mature — both in terms of its 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 organisations, he said, with business units trading credits in an endeavour to make the overall organisation more energy efficient.

McCabe also expects the concept of carbon credits to be transferred to other environmental issues such as water and waste.

UK 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 out of IT and a huge inflow into sustainability technology.

Organisations that innovate around sustainability technology, he said, -will make billions if not trillions over the next decade out of this social challenge we have."

-The most amazing catalyst in this country 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."