Monday, 10 March 2014 01:32

$8 billion in savings, lower carbon emissions from increased ICT investment

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Increased investment in ICT could save business, government and consumers an estimated $8.1 billion and more than 27 million tonnes of carbon pollution could be avoided every year, according to a newly published report.

The report by Telstra -  ‘Connecting with a Low Carbon Future’ - quantifies the potential benefits of seven key ICT opportunities to Australian businesses and consumers in 2014.

According to Telstra, if realised these tools could save business and consumers an estimated $8.1 billion in energy and travel costs and cut national carbon emissions by 4.7%, the equivalent of taking around two thirds of Australia’s cars off the road for a year.

Telstra Group Managing Director Paul Geason said “smart, affordable ICT solutions had the almost unrivalled potential to provide many Australian businesses with a major step change in their approach to reducing carbon emissions.”

“Businesses are always looking at ways to improve productivity while growing the bottom line. Of all of the options on the table investing in smart technology is by far one of the most effective.

“In addition to having the potential to increase productivity and new business opportunities, modern information communication technologies also have the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions.”

Geason said Telstra had first identified seven ICT opportunities for Australian businesses and spelt out the potential benefits in 2007.

“When we first started looking at this issue closely seven years ago we thought existing technologies would provide the biggest benefits to business in terms of cutting operating costs, creating opportunities to generate new business cutting carbon emissions. We’re seven years smarter and excited that innovations have emerged that could further benefit business, including smart cities and infrastructure and mobile carbon guidance.

“Today’s report examines the potential value of seven identified opportunities, and estimates while some opportunities are already delivering savings of $1.6 billion per annum, at this point the most profound conclusion from this report are that Australians are leaving around $6.5 billion in savings on the table by not investing more in ICT.

“Technologies such as telepresence have proven a strategic and sound investment that can reap significant savings for businesses with employees in multiple locations. However the potential of this and other ICT solutions to realise further carbon and cost savings, is only expected to increase in the future with rising energy consumption and prices.”

According to Geason, the initial telepresence solution, installed in 2009 for the Department of Finance in Canberra, hosted 1,031 meetings during the first 18 months of operation.  The cost avoided for travel and  associated expenses were estimated to be up to $70,000 per meeting and, as a result of the reduction in travel, government was able to avoid costs in excess of $12 million during this period.

“These savings are being made by companies right now through the strategic deployment of ICT. The opportunity to further improve productivity, while responding to increasing societal pressure to reduce environmental impacts, is only expected to increase in the future,” Geason concluded.

Key ICT business tools examined in the Telstra report included:

•    Remote appliance power management – enabling remote access to power on/off

•    Context-aware power management

•    Decentralised working (or teleworking)

•    Personalised public transport

•    Real-time fleet management

•    Increased renewable energy

•    High definition video conferencing (or telepresence)

The report also found:

•    The financial savings possible in 2014 represent a 47% increase on the potential savings identified in 2007, while potential carbon emissions savings have increased by 8.5%

•    The increase in cost and carbon saving potential of ICT is mainly due to a combination of higher energy consumption and electricity prices

•    Of the seven ICT opportunities identified, four are estimated to be achieving between about 10 and 44 per cent of their total emissions reduction potential

•    There are new or emerging innovative ICT opportunities, the financial and carbon benefits of which are not quantified in the report. They are Clean Cloud, Smart Cities and Infrastructure, and Mobile Carbon Guidance, and

•    The seven ICT-enabled carbon reduction opportunities identified could achieve an estimated one fifth of the bipartisan carbon reduction target for 2020.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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