The drive to reduce emissions and cut costs
Climate change and environmental impact remains a top-tier concern for business leaders, investors, regulators and the general public. With this in mind, and as carbon pricing becomes more common globally1, organisations will need to increasingly measure and report on their environmental impact.
In order to recognise and challenge their environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts, organisations will also need to have a significant understanding of their impact across all parts of their operations, including their technology infrastructure.
By moving systems to energy-efficient cloud computing platforms and fibre networks, organisations can help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and cut energy costs.
New technology that lifts energy demand
Internet use has exploded in recent years. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global internet traffic more than doubled between 2017 and 2020.2 The enormous growth in internet traffic has fuelled huge increases in demand for data centres and data transmission networks. Yet data centre energy use has grown only moderately, thanks in part to efficiency improvements in IT hardware and cooling and a shift away from small, inefficient data centres towards more efficient cloud and hyperscale operations.
Nevertheless, the IEA has warned businesses and regulators need to carefully consider the environmental impact of technology to help reduce future energy demand. Increasing use of video streaming, blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) systems all have the potential to increase data centre demand and energy-use. “As efficiency gains of current technologies decelerate (or even stall) in upcoming years, more efficient new technologies will be needed to keep pace with growing data demand.”
Energy-efficient data transmission
The impact of data centres on greenhouse gas emissions has been well documented. Less well known is the impact of the data transmission networks.
According to the IEA, the power consumption of data networks is comparable to that of data centres – having accounted for up to 1.4% of global electricity use in 2020. Some types of data networks however are more energy efficient than others. “Mobile networks have considerably higher electricity intensities (kWh/GB) than fixed-line networks at current traffic levels and network utilisation,” the IEA reported.
A 2020 study by Germany’s Environment Agency3 compared the energy consumption of different data transmission technologies when streaming high-definition video. Its study found fibre to the premises networks used 2.5 times less energy than 5G networks, six times less energy than 4G networks and 50 times less energy than 3G when streaming high-definition video. “Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced considerably, depending on the data transmission technology used,” the agency concluded.
Technology strategies to help cut emissions
Responsible organisations can take several key steps to help cut the greenhouse gas emissions caused by their tech infrastructure.
The first is to consider moving operations to the cloud. Cloud-based systems are highly efficient in their use of computing resources and therefore generally more energy efficient than on-premises computing operations.
A strategy to reduce emissions should also include energy-efficient data networks. Fibre-based networks have been shown to be highly energy efficient, with significantly less power demand than other network technologies.
In addition, business-grade fibre networks, such as business nbn®’s Enterprise Ethernet† can offer features that help optimise the use of cloud-based infrastructure, including speed and reliability, symmetrical data speeds, priority data and enhanced support.‡ Through measures including the Business Fibre Zone initiative, business nbn is not only helping provide businesses with choice in accessing fibre-based data transmission networks, but also providing customers with an energy-efficient and resilient fibre network.
To help reduce direct and indirect emissions, companies should also seek suppliers and partners that are reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the latest climate science. In February 2023 nbn committed to set long-term greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reduction targets and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, or sooner, via the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)4.
Our long-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets will be consistent with meeting and exceeding the Australian Government’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. The Mitigating the effects of climate change requires action now, and therefore nbn has also set near-term science-based emissions reduction targets, which have been validated by the SBTi5.
Making sustainable tech choices
Choosing the right technology can help companies make their operations more energy efficient, cut emissions, and help build a more sustainable future. By helping give businesses choice in fibre-based data networks, business nbn is giving them options for reducing the environmental impact of their tech operations.
Discover the benefits of business nbn Enterprise Ethernet
- More Countries Are Pricing Carbon, but Emissions Are Still Too Cheap, IMF, July 2022
- Data Centres and Data Transmission Networks, IEA, November 2021
- Video streaming: data transmission technology crucial for climate footprint, German Environment Agency, September 2020
- Sustainability Bond Report, NBN Co, February 2023
- Companies taking action, Science Based Targets