A roadmap for low carbon computing

Climate change minister Ed Miliband likens the challenge facing us over climate change to the Apollo mission which landed a man on the moon. And it’s not just the technology that we need to get right – a huge collective, society-wide endeavour is required. We are, as they say, all in this together, so what role will education have to play? A new report from JISC TechWatch, Low carbon computing: a view to 2050 and beyond, attempts to answer that question, outlining a technology roadmap for moving to a more energy efficient information systems infrastructure.

Driven by the UK’s Climate Change Act and the proposed carbon accounting system the education sector faces stiff energy challenges. Whilst business workplaces in general will be expected to provide an overall reduction of about 13%, the public sector is expected to reduce by 30% of 1999/2000 levels by 2020. The TechWatch report explains that it is likely that data-intensive sectors such as tertiary education will probably find themselves facing even harsher targets and argues that the impetus will fall not only on reducing demand but also on generating supply. In summary, the report covers:

  • best practice measures and standards for metrics (section 3)
  • short term ‘quick fixes’ based on simple staff actions and/or low cost investment (section 4)
  • longer term solutions that either represent a more costly investment, or are based on more experimental technologies (section 4)
  • discussion of the factors that are likely to affect how these technologies develop in the future
  • a first attempt at a Low Carbon ICT Roadmap, which puts these issues into a framework that also takes into account what is currently known about the targets associated with the Climate Change Act (section 6)
  • a discussion of the factors and technologies that are likely to feature in the long-term plans and decisions that senior managers in tertiary education will need to make (section 5).