Greener networks for a better planet
Climate change is the ‘defining issue of our time’ according to the United Nations. But when it comes to carbon emissions and how we reduce them, what role does the information and communications technology (ICT) industry play?
We spoke to Klaus Grobe, director of sustainability for network technology experts ADVA, to find out more about the scope of the challenge, and what ADVA is doing to reduce its own environmental impact.
“The telecommunications industry is playing a big part in helping to tackle the challenge of climate change,” Klaus says. “When you look at the big picture of smart cities and the Internet of Things, technology enables us to use resources more efficiently. On an individual level, technology is changing the way we buy services and we can see small, everyday benefits for sustainability. Consider one small example: if we want to listen to a new album, we stream it over the internet. Not many of us will drive into town to buy the album as a physical object encased in plastic.”
According to the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), the ICT industry has the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 percent by 2030 by helping companies and consumers to more intelligently use and save energy.
“But,” Klaus cautions, “as an industry, we have to recognise we also contribute to carbon emissions.”
The environmental impact of data
Klaus says ICT contributes around two percent of global carbon emissions but that may increase in the future as demand for data continues to increase.
Data is an invisible, intangible thing. Yet transmitting data requires power, and the more data we produce, the more power we need. IDC predicts worldwide data creation will grow to 163 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025. That is ten times the amount of data produced in 2017.
“ICT emissions are predicted to grow alongside this increase in bandwidth. Exponential bandwidth growth requires huge amounts of power to run the networks and push the data across the globe,” Klaus says. “And, despite massive improvements in our data transport, these efficiencies haven’t completely offset the demands, meaning more emissions than in the past.”
Achieving ambitious goals
In setting its carbon emissions reduction target, ADVA analysed its emissions across three ‘scopes’ set by the Green House Gas Protocol Corporate Standard. Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy. Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions (not included in scope 2) that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions.
“The majority of our emissions comes from scope 3. Our main target for reducing our environment impact focuses on the indirect emissions arising from the use cases of our products,” he explains.
A green view on hardware design
“We have looked at all the ways we can reduce the energy usage of our equipment from the type of power supply units and the power distribution concept to how we avoid functionality that’s not required, either by deactivating it or designing it out.”
Improving the lifetime and reusability of assets is also a route towards carbon reductions according to Klaus.
“We are trying to reduce truck rolls by making our equipment more resilient. After all, failure at low loads causes extra maintenance, resulting in increased truck rolls and higher emissions.”
Smarter operation through software
Software also plays a part by improving efficiency and enabling predictive maintenance.
“Artificial intelligence (AI) and software can help reduce energy consumption across a network,” Klaus says. “And on a network of thousands of devices, one can use AI to predict likely failures and optimise maintenance schedules, keeping devices running efficiently for longer.”
ADVA’s approach to improving the sustainability of its products, saw it recognised with a British Telecom sustainability innovation award in March 2019.
“It’s rewarding to be recognised for our progress,” Klaus says. “And it sets a standard for the rest of the industry to follow and helps our sustainability ideas have an even greater effect.”
But Klaus remains focused on the bigger picture. “This is a long-term challenge and we are going to keep doing our part to ensure our industry can support digital growth in a sustainable way.
If you want to find out how Telstra is managing our environmental impacts and helping customers and communities to do the same, check out our Bigger Picture report here.
This article was written in conjunction with Telstra Wholesale Partner ADVA.
ADVA is a company founded on innovation and focused on helping our customers succeed. Our technology forms the building blocks of a shared digital future and empowers networks across the globe. We’re continually developing breakthrough hardware and software that leads the networking industry and creates new business opportunities. It’s these open connectivity solutions that enable our customers to deliver the cloud and mobile services that are vital to today’s society and for imagining new tomorrows. Together, we're building a truly connected and sustainable future. For more information on how we can help you, please visit us at: www.advaoptical.com