Environmentally friendly digitalisation

Illustration Umweltpolitische Digitalagenda

In order to fully tap the potential of digitalisation for environmental protection, climate action and resource conservation, its own ecological footprint must be as low as possible. This is far from the case in reality. The growth in the development and use of digital technologies also increases energy and resource consumption. Users do not really have access to transparent or verifiable information on the environmental impacts of digitalisation. That is why companies, manufacturers and hardware, software and data centre operators and policy-makers have a particular responsibility to limit the ecological footprint of digitalisation. It is essential for data centres to become more efficient. The BMU plans to create incentives to bring about this change, for example, with mandatory efficiency standards, visible labels like the Blue Angel ecolabel or financial support.

Making digital infrastructure and data centres more efficient

Behind the Cloud are data centres and servers of businesses and authorities that are the brains behind digitalisation. There are no legal requirements regarding the minimum energy efficiency for data centres, which would require efficiency to be measured and effectively monitored. The BMU is therefore preparing a uniform statistical survey of data centres to create a register and to serve as a basis for effective sector coupling (e.g. municipal thermal planning). The Blue Angel ecolabel already demonstrates how energy and resource efficiency in data centre operation can be increased. Through its National Climate Initiative (NKI), the BMU supports municipalities in investments and optimisation services for increasing efficiency in data centres. 

Long hardware life

A fundamental problem with hardware is its short life span. For this reason, the BMU is advocating binding requirements for manufacturers in the EU Ecodesign Directive that will guarantee the functionality of hardware software systems for many years. This applies to digital products and conventional household appliances that are increasingly becoming digitally networked. In addition, the BMU is in favour of extending European manufacturer obligations to include statements on the guaranteed life span of their products (guarantee statement obligation). 

Closed cycles for digital technology materials

The environmental and social consequences of raw material extraction for digital devices are a fundamental problem of digitalisation. The BMU is advocating EU-wide and environmentally appropriate minimum quotas for the use of recycled materials (plastics and metals) in the manufacturing of components for digital infrastructures and electronic devices.

Environmentally sound software programming

Software considerably influences energy consumption and the life span of hardware. It activates energy saving modes, transfers and saves large volumes of data and initiates computing operations. Despite its major significance, the regulation of sustainable software is still in the initial stages - legal requirements for energy efficiency do not exist. The Federal Environment Agency’s Blue Angel ecolabel for resource- and energy-efficient software products is an important step forward. T

he BMU and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) are developing and launching a syllabus and a network for "green coding" to create the tools for incorporating environmentally sound software programming into the training of programmers.

Setting a good example: Green IT project

The German government is making progress on green IT: since 2009, under the green IT energy saving programme, the energy consumption of the government’s IT systems has decreased by nearly 60 percent, in spite of a significant rise in performance. By 2024, this energy consumption is to be further reduced by an additional 2 percent each year. Under the Climate Action Programme 2030 and Climate Change Act, in future German government data centres under development and data centre services for the government will have to comply with Blue Angel criteria.