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Cloud migration cuts Civil Service ICT energy consumption

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Civil Service staff consumed less energy through digital technology in 2021-22 than the previous year, but this had a lot to do with the migration of services to the cloud, according to a new report.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published figures within the latest Greening Government ICT report, estimating individual staff energy consumption at 1,546 kWh/year, down from 1,721 kWh in 2020-21.

It says, however, that the reduction can be explained by the decrease in internal energy consumption as services have moved to cloud providers, and that some departments have reported difficulties in getting the relevant data from providers.

The largest proportion of energy consumption was in running networks – 32.2% - followed by IT peripherals at 19.2%, servers at 15.9%, assets at 10.9% and imaging at 10.3%.

The report says that 34 department and agencies provided returns, nine more than last year and more than ever before, with several setting strategy statements and providing policy progress data. They also provided an increased volume of data on ICT and digital footprints, cloud hosting and green energy.

Waste problems

Efforts to identify the level of ICT waste have been hampered by departments taking different approaches to disposing of their old equipment – some paying for recycling services with rebates for reclaimed materials while others allow waste to be taken for free – but there is no consistent view, guidance or policy on how it should be done.

“With the amount of waste approaching two million kilograms there is an opportunity for government to adopt a smarter, coordinated, ethical and perhaps more lucrative approach to managing its ICT lifecycle,” the report says.

But it includes figures showing a total of 2.32 million kg of e-waste over the year – up sharply from 1.72 million kg the previous year – of which 1.25 million kg went for re-use, 908,000 kg for recycling, 123,000 kg for recovery and just 36,776 kg to landfill. The positive point to emerge from this was that almost all of the waste went into the circular economy in some form.

Key themes highlighted by Defra include needs for closer engagement with suppliers – of which the recently announced launch of the Government Sustainability Alliance will be a key step – improved management of resources, the filling of data gaps and more sustainable procurement..

In the report’s foreword, Defra’s chief digital and information officer Chris Howes says: “Technology won’t solve everything though. Minimising climate change will require massive behavioural and societal changes. So, we need a greater focus on how technology and data can help drive that.”

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