Several studies predict that the ICT and E&M sectors will continue to increase their energy and carbon footprints, and in the case of ICT exponentially similar to the data traffic increase. This study shows that in fact the opposite trend is seen in Sweden, the footprints have started to decrease despite a continuing exponential increase in data traffic. The study is based on a large share of measured data and Sweden is world-leading in many ICT and E&M metrics, thus it can be seen as an exellent case study and guide on how ICT and E&M will develop globally in the future.
This study shows that the energy and carbon footprints of the ICT and E&M sectors have decreased from a peak at around 2010. The increasing trend of using tablets and smartphones with a low energy consumption (small screens) instead of PCs and TVs is an important contributing factor. Despite that the sales of PCs and TVs have decreased by nearly 20%, the embodied carbon footprint from their manufacturing processes abroad are still the largest source of ICT related carbon emissions in Sweden. The carbon footprint related to operation is low due to the low-carbon Swedish electricity mix. Based on current trends and network plans, it can be forecasted that the energy and carbon footprints of the ICT and the E&M sectors will continue to decrease at least until 2020.
Jens Malmodin, Ericsson Research and Dag Lundén, Telia Company
Malmodin, J., D. Lundén. (2016), The energy and carbon footprint of the ICT and E&M sector in Sweden 1990-2015 and beyond, Paper published and presented at: ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S), Amsterdam, Netherlands, 30-31 August 2016. Also available at: http://www.atlantis-press.com/php/download_paper.php?id=25860385