30.09.2020

New eco Survey: Improved Climate Footprint through Digital Solutions

  • Germans believe that the digital areas offering the greatest potential are Networked Mobility (32.8 %), Industry 4.0 (20.5 %) and Home Office (17.3 %)
  • Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany aims to raise awareness of energy-efficient digitalisation through data centres
  • Appeal to politicians: Accelerate broadband expansion and use waste heat

Digital technologies and applications can have a positive impact on the climate footprint in the future. According to a new survey commissioned by eco – Association of the Internet Industry, the majority of Germans are convinced of this. In the representative nationwide survey conducted by the market and opinion research institute Civey*, almost 56 percent voted “Yes”.

The respondents see the greatest potential for climate protection above all in the areas of Mobility (32.8 percent), Industry 4.0 (20.5 percent) and working from home (17.3 percent). “Digitalisation holds enormous solution potential for more energy and resource efficiency. Politicians should therefore develop concepts and strategies for digital climate protection hand in hand with the Internet industry,” says eco Chair, Oliver Süme. “With the help of energy-efficient and networked machines, telematics and mobility concepts as well as smart tools for home office and schooling, the Internet industry can make a decisive contribution to more sustainability.”

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Digital infrastructures are the backbone of energy-efficient digitalisation

Only 7.7 percent of those surveyed recognized the influence of digital infrastructures on an improved climate balance. “Many people have not yet recognised the potential and the necessity of digital infrastructures, although they are the backbone of digitalisation and thus also the prerequisite for all other areas such as Networked Mobility, Industry 4.0 and mobile working,” says Dr. Béla Waldhauser, spokesperson for the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany, which was founded under the umbrella of the eco Association .

With a view to the plans recently presented by the German Federal Minister for the Environment, Svenja Schulze, for more energy and resource efficiency of digital infrastructures, Waldhauser also warns against not sufficiently integrating their sustainability potential into energy policy concepts.  “Of course data centres consume energy, but you have to take into account the enormous savings potential offered by digital services. Above all, however, the energy transition in Germany must now be accelerated and a higher proportion of regenerative sources must be available if the goal is really to enable the nationwide climate-neutral operation of data centres in Europe by 2030.  “A faster, politically controlled phase-out of fossil fuels in Germany will lead to a much faster reduction in CO2 emissions from the energy used by data centres.”

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Digital infrastructures: Sustainable use of waste heat from data centres

“Operators of digital infrastructures in Germany have for years been committed to greater sustainability, which means that German data centres are already among the most energy-efficient in international comparison,” says Waldhauser. This is also shown by a study commissioned by the eco Association for the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany, supported by the Vodafone Institute and conducted by the Borderstep Institute.

However, there is still room for improvement, especially with regard to broadband expansion and the use of waste heat from data centres. “If climate protection is to be taken seriously, waste heat from data centres should be utilised sensibly,” argues Waldhauser. “Up to now, data centres have had far too few opportunities to feed their waste heat into local or district heating networks because this simply does not seem attractive enough for network operators – politics can remedy this situation, for example, by imposing purchase obligations.” This is why eco and the Alliance also welcome the plans recently presented by Svenja Schulze for more energy and resource efficiency in digital infrastructures, which are intended to further promote broadband expansion and waste heat recovery.

But the credo of all activities in this future field must be: Only together can we manage the energy transition and reach the climate goals. An alliance of society, economy, and state for climate neutrality and prosperity, which was initiated by the German Federal Minister of Economics Altmaier, therefore appears to be a first positive signal in this direction.

*On behalf of eco – Association of the Internet Industry, the market and opinion research company Civey surveyed 2,502 people between 16 and 18 September 2020. The results are representative. The statistical error of the overall results is 3.4 percent.

 

New eco Survey: Improved Climate Footprint through Digital Solutions