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More Bits, Less Watts: Green Development is Critical to Achieve 2030 Emissions Targets

Article by Jianfeng Yan, Huawei Digital Power Expert

Technology is bringing increasing convenience and comfort to our lives but the demand for energy cannot be met in a sustainable way.  Our needs are pushing the limits of the earth’s ecosystem. A report released by the United Nation’s IPCC Working Group III on April 4, 2022, warned that global net emissions must drop to net-zero by 2050, and be reduced by 43% by 2030 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the Working Group. The report suggests “These (reductions) can be achieved through lower energy consumption…. electrification of transport in combination with low-emissions energy sources, and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using [solutions from] nature.”

In response, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterriez wrote “In concrete terms, this means major cities underwater; unprecedented heat waves; terrifying storms; widespread water shortages; and the extinction of 1 million species of plants and animals…Scientists warn that we are already perilously close to tipping points that could lead to cascading and irreversible climate effects.”

China has said it will reduce its total carbon emissions and be a global leader in the fight against climate change. However, regardless of their stage of economic development, all countries must work together to create a low-carbon future. A report by Nature prepared for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) argues that even with broadened scope for long-term net-zero targets, it will not be possible to maintain warming at around 1.5 °C since projections are expected to exceed this temperature shortly after 2030,  even under the most ambitious emission pledge and decarbonization scenarios.

Jianfeng Yan, Huawei Digital Power Expert

Beyond national targets, global agreements and commitments, realistic solutions and ways to measure are needed to help countries achieve these goals. As economic development continues, corporations have a critical role to play in implementing and delivering a low-carbon future.

The 2015 Smarter 2030 Report (business playbook) released by GeSIit explained “ICT has the potential to maintain global CO2 emissions at 2015 levels, decoupling the past pattern where each 1% of growth in GDP equated to an 0.5% increase in CO2 emissions, and promote sustainable growth through 2030. To realize the potential of low carbon growth, policy action is essential.”

Since 2015, the challenge has been not only to make ICT low carbon but the greater challenge of how ICT can be an enabler for low carbon solutions whilst meeting growing needs for energy. While ICT is expected to account for less than 2% of global carbon emissions by 2030, other industries are expected to reduce their own carbon emissions by 20% through the application of ICT technologies.

Digitalization offers a solution by enhancing efficiency and optimizing usage via an integrated approach leveraging cloud computing, machine learning, and AI. These secondary savings are called carbon handprints. The size of this carbon handprint has made ICT infrastructure increasingly important in many national strategies. Huawei predicts that 1 yottabyte of global data will be stored on the cloud by 2030.

This means that 150 million tons of carbon emissions can be saved each year if the current infrastructure is equipped with greener, all-optical transmission technologies. These savings would be equivalent to planting 200 million trees – an amount that would cover the entirety of Europe in forest. The role of the ICT industry in reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) was articulated in 2020 by the ITU standard in support of the Paris Agreement advocating a reduction in emissions by 45% from 2020 to 2030.

Reducing carbon emissions through greater energy efficiency

In an April 2022 report on renewable energy capacity by the International Renewal Energy Agency, renewable generation capacity increased by 257 GW (+9.1%) in 2021 with solar energy leading capacity expansion (an increase of 133 GW (+19%), followed by wind energy with 93 GW (+13%).  Solar and wind energy continue to dominate renewable capacity expansion, jointly accounting for 88% of all net renewable additions in 2021.

At Huawei, one of the priorities we see within the ICT industry itself is supporting telecom carriers to optimize energy by exploring alternative energy forms, and building energy-efficient sites, networks, and operations. This helps them to reduce their carbon footprint while lowering energy expenses to meet their cost reduction goals. This is the essence of our “More Bits, Less Watts” strategy.

Network efficiency – In addition to using renewable power, the energy efficiency of telecom networks can also create great savings. Huawei has created a systematic solution called “Green Site, Green Network, and Green Operation” to help carriers continuously improve network capacity and reduce power consumption per bit, thereby achieving “More Bits, Less Watts”.

Low-energy or renewable sources – Wind and solar continue to be recognized as sustainable forms of energy but opportunities exist to create greater efficiency by integrating AI and Cloud to create optimal power generation. For telecoms carriers, saving energy and cutting emissions at sites, data centers, and network connections are key to green development and potential efficiencies can be identified at many points.

Total Lifecycle Emissions – Only 2% of carbon emissions are generated during network manufacturing, while 80-95% are generated during usage therefore innovative technologies are needed to improve energy efficiency for the entire lifecycle.

User Experience – Energy use can be managed via intelligent systems. This is especially beneficial in situations where power needs fluctuate during, for example, managing rush hour periods in an office building or shopping mall, or transport hub such as an airport terminal.

Looking to the future, 2022 is already seeing rising energy prices coupled with increased demand. So, the world is looking for non-fossil fuel energy solutions to meet low-carbon targets but also make business and economic sense. This efficiency must be achieved at every stage of energy production and industry processes.

The role that green ICT can play in helping the world achieve 2030 goals is clear but to make this happen, all stakeholders must work together to transform renewable energy from supplementary to primary energy sources capable of replacing fossil fuels.

While governments and multi-lateral organizations should develop policies and regulations which are relevant to their markets, corporations can provide valuable innovation, insights, and solutions to enhance traditional offerings by rethinking existing approaches. Addressing the low-carbon 2030 targets requires an integrated multi-stakeholder approach that transcends borders and focuses on safe, reliable energy generation to safeguard connectivity and drive digital transformation to achieve a green future.


The views in this article are that of the author and do not reflect the views of Tech Wire Asia.