Last year, The Climate Group’s SMART 2020 report revealed the Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry has carbon footprint equaling that of the global aviation industry- contributing approximately 2% of global CO2 emissions (Related Climatico blog- aviation emissions). However, the main conclusions of the report were more positive–noting “ICT’s largest influence will be by enabling energy efficiencies in other sectors” (Source).” India’s own ICT sector India contributes to nearly 5% of its overall GDP (in 2006) and projected to grow. In India, ‘greening’ IT is one of the fastest growing trends in the industry eager to provide services of energy efficient hardware, energy management software, and eco-friendly computing.
While there is no explicit inclusion of ICT strategies in India’s National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEE) one of eight missions under the government’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPoCC), the government and industry has utilized the NMEEE and global market demand for establishing an “energy internet” industry (from Thomas L Friedman’s latest book Hot, Flat, and Crowded– “when IT meets ET”).
Promoting ESCos- Energy Service Companies
For example, under the NMEEE, the Indian Government is attempting to India’s Chamber of Commerce, under its Energy Efficiency Initiative, has sought to expand the number of ESCos in India. ESCos (Energy Service Companies) are businesses designed to provide energy efficiency services for companies by specializing in energy audit and implementation of energy efficiency schemesIndia’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (housed under the Ministry of Power, and key institutional body for NMEEE initiatives), has also sought to strengthen ESCos role in enhancing energy efficiency. In addition, BEE published a list of accredited ESCos to encourage energy utilization schemes and provide standardization and credibility for the ESCo industry. Lastly, the Government is looking into schemes which ESCos receive tax exemptions to further enhance energy efficiency practices.
Telecom Green Credit Market
Building a Power ‘Smart’ Grid
Given such a potential, it is disappointing that the Indian Government has not focused further attention in this avenue. Progress in smart grid technology and infrastructure has been slow and lacks government support. Instead, private businesses are looking to smart grid concepts but only in research and development phases (IBM adds North Delhi Power Limited to its network coalition of utilities) given the uncertainty and extensive investment costs which would be required to restructure the power system.
Interestingly, the SMART 2020 report, noted that ICT initiatives could significantly improve India’s power sector, reducing transmission and distribution losses by 30%, by creating a ‘power smart grids.’ Smart grid infrastructures- one where customers and power utilities ‘communicate’ so that power is efficiently distributed through various mechanisms such as returning power to grids when not using or coupling solar/wind/hydro power with grids- require revolutionary changes to the power infrastructure. However, India’s use solar power to decentralize power for remote villages can be starting points for establishing smart power grid systems. Ironically, such an effort would address two National Missions in the NAPoCC: Solar and Enhanced Energy Efficiency.
Government involvement needed
Has the government done enough to signal and encourage investment in ICT based strategies? Aside from the publication of NMEEE and BEE’s accreditation of ESCos, much of the activity in utilizing ICT to promote energy efficiency seems to be business/private sector driven. Increasing energy efficiency is desperately needed in India’s power and transport sectors, but lacks government involvement and the necessary mechanisms to encourage industry-driven commitment and customer support. In addition, let’s not forget the starting point to this blog- that the ICT industry has a high carbon footprint. If the government has not addressed ICT enabling potential, it has clearly not intervened in regulating the industries involvement in emissions. Rather, it is likely that corporate-led initiatives will be the only drivers encouraging a lower carbon footprint for the industry under the frame that it carries bottom line advantages and stakeholder accountability.
Thus, there is an opportunity to integrate ICT with energy challenges in India. The NMEEE and corporate-led efforts can be linked together only by government-supported mechanisms and instruments which will encourage long-term commitment to ‘energy internet’ society.