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EU IT commissariat has lightbulb moment over green IT

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The European Commission has decided that it is the information technology industry's job to lead the Euro Community into a greener future by reducing energy use and therefore carbon emissions.

The Commission has adopted a new Communication which pushes the Information, Technology and Communications industry to reduce its own emissions but also play a major role in getting other industries to cut their output of carbon. The Commission also claims such green technologies could provide a decent growth market for European companies and jobs.

Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information, Society and Media, said: "To meet Europe's energy efficiency goals by 2020, we need a high growth, low carbon economy. Research and rapid take-up of innovative energy efficient ICT solutions will be crucial to lowering emissions across the whole economy. There is a win-win situation in which ICT will promote the competitiveness of EU industry while leading the fight against climate change."

The ICT sector is blamed for two per cent of current global carbon, emissions. While that doesn't sound like a lot, the EU has decreed that the ICT has to lead the rest of the world - you know, the power and transport sectors - by moving to carbon-neutral status.

Why Reding has taken responsibility for driving the green agenda and getting on with her regular job - scaring the mobile industry over roaming charges and touting RFID as the solution to all society's problems - is anyone's guess.

Still, the Commission is launching a "consultation and partnership process" which will focus on three main areas.

First comes energy generation and distribution, which currently uses one third of energy produced. More an issue for whoever is in charge of utilities you'd have thought? Well, the Commission speculates that IT could make distribution networks more efficient, but could also make the integration of renewable energy sources easier.

The heating and cooling of buildings comes next, accounting for 40 per cent of European energy use. ICT could help with monitoring systems and smart metres which tell consumers how much power they are using apparently, though some tougher building regulations and grants to get older spaces up to scratch might not go amiss either.

Thirdly, the Commission is looking at reducing the 20 per cent of world electricity used for lighting. The EC is already funding a project looking at Organic Light Emitting Diodes for computer displays and to replace lightbulbs. Perhaps there is a wax mountain lying around that could be used to reignite the European chandlery industry as well.

The EC has been getting into a bit of a pickle in its efforts to paint itself green. Setting targets for ten per cent biofuel content in petrol and diesel by 2020 coincided with food riots around the world blamed in part on food prices being pushed higher by increasing demand for biofuels.

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso has called for more research into the impact of biofuels on food prices. The UK government is also reviewing compulsory biofuel targets - UK motor fuels must currently contain 2.5 per cent biofuel. ®

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