Cloud computing and energy efficiency

Tom Worthington

Research School of Computer Science

Australian National University

For Energy Change Institute Open Day, 29 October 2012, Canberra, Australia.
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Cloud Computing

Computer > Cloud > Server > electricity > fossil fuel > CO2 > global warming.

1.52% of Australian carbon emissions in 2007 due to ICT

Cloud Computing transfers the problem into the "cloud".

Computers and telecommunications (ICT) equipment is powered by electricity. If the electricity is generated by burning fossil fuel, this releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which traps sunlight, causing global warming.

A carbon emissions audit for the the Australian Computer Society (ACS), reported in 2007 that 1.52% of Australian carbon emissions were attributable to computers and telecommunications equipment.

Cloud Computing transfers the processing task from the client's computer to a remote shared server, connected via the Internet "cloud". While this may reduce the power consumption and therefore greenhouse gas emissions of the client computer, this may be simply transferring the problem into the cloud.

Estimating and Reducing ICT Energy Use

ICT Sustainability (COMP7310)

  1. ANU graduate course run each year since 2009
  2. Assess and reduce ICT carbon footprint
  3. Course eBook free online,
  4. Aligned with Global Standards (SFIA)
  5. Online course with workplace assesment
  6. Also run by the Australian Computer Society and Athabasca University

In 2008 the Australian Computer Society (ACS), commissioned Tom Worthington to design an e-learning course in “Green ICT Strategies”, to train professionals in how to measure and reduce CO2 emissions. It was first run as part of the postgraduate masters level program in February 2009.

The course was first run by ACS, in February 2009 as "Green ICT Strategies" (later renamed "Green Technology Strategies"), with students who are working in the ICT industry. The course was then modified slightly are run by Tom Worthington in the graduate program of Australian National University (ANU) from July 2009 as Green Information Technology Strategies, COMP7310 (later renamed ICT Sustainability). A North American version of the course was developed by Brian Stewart for Athabasca University (Canada) in 2011 as "Green ICT Strategies".

The course covers how to assess, and develop a strategies to reduce, the carbon footprint and materials use of the ICT operations of an organisation. This is in the context where computers and telecommunications are threat to the environment through increased electricity consumption (leading to carbon emissions and global warming) and increased toxic waste from rapidly obsolete equipment. Students are expected to have a degree in ICT. Those completing the course are expected to be preparing carbon accounting reports for organisations, including those required under carbon accounting legislation.

The course objectives and assessment items are based on the skills definitions for “Sustainability Assessment” and “Sustainability Strategy” at level 5 of the Skills Framework for the information Age (SFIA).

The course content is available free on the web .

What Next

Dr Idris F. Sulaiman, Adjunct Fellow, is working on a green development project in Indonesia,

Mr Tom Worthington, Adjunct Lecturer, is speaking on green ICT education at the Faculty of Science and Technology, UIN Suska University of Riau (Fakultas Sains Dan Teknologi, Universitas Islam Negeri Sultan Syarif Kasim Riau) in Indonesia, next week.

More Information

  1. The presentation notes are at:
  2. Slides for these notes are also available
  3. Conference paper: WORTHINGTON, T. 2012. A green computing professional education course online: designing and delivering a course in ICT Sustainability using Internet and eBooks. 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education. Melbourne, Australia: IEEE. URL:
  4. Book: "ICT Sustainability", Tom Worthington, 2011: Kindle, iPad, ePub, PDF eBooks, Paperback and web
  5. Green ICT Strategies COMP7310, Masters program, The Australian National University, from July 2009
  6. Tom Worthington

Version 1.0, 26 October 2012, Tom Worthington

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