Conference PaperPDF Available

Why energy efficiency is not sufficient – some remarks on "Green by IT"

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Most part of the "Green IT" or "Green ICT" discussion is addressing issues of energy efficiency, implicitly assuming that more energy-efficient technologies will substantially contribute to a reduction of total energy consumption and, as a consequence, of CO 2 emissions. This assumption is usually challenged by historical evidence for the rebound effect. This paper presents a case study on smart vending machines, showing that the ocurrence and size of the re-bound effect can vary greatly depending on several factors. Some suggestions on how to avoid rebound effects when applying "smarter" technologies to save energy are derived.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Suggested citation: Hilty, Lorenz M.: Why energy efficiency is not sufficient some remarks on “Green by IT”. In: Arndt, H. K.
(ed.): EnviroInfo 2012, 26th International Conference Informatics for Environmental Protection, Shaker Verlag 2012, pp. 13-20
13
Why energy efficiency is not sufficient some remarks on
“Green by IT”
Lorenz M. Hilty1
Abstract
Most part of the “Green IT“ or “Green ICT“ discussion is addressing issues of energy efficiency, implicitly assuming
that more energy-efficient technologies will substantially contribute to a reduction of total energy consumption and,
as a consequence, of CO2 emissions. This assumption is usually challenged by historical evidence for the rebound
effect. This paper presents a case study on smart vending machines, showing that the ocurrence and size of the re-
bound effect can vary greatly depending on several factors. Some suggestions on how to avoid rebound effects when
applying “smarter” technologies to save energy are derived.
1. Introduction
Almost five years ago, the term “Green IT” began its career from Gartner’s report “Green IT: a new indus-
try shock wave” (Mingay 2007). Organizations as different as the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI
2008), the WWF (2008), and the OECD (2010) published well-received studies on the potential of IT or
ICT2 to reduce CO2 emissions, either by reducing the power consumption of IT itself (“Green in IT”) or by
using IT as an enabling technology for saving energy in other fields (“Green by IT”). A broad and fruitful
discussion about the current and future role of IT in energy, environmental and more general sustain-
ability issues has emerged both in academia and industry.
The goal of this paper is to provide a differentiated view on a recurring and essential theme in this dis-
cussion: the rebound effect. Depending on the assumptions one makes about the size of the rebound effect
in a given application field of IT (e.g., in traffic optimization), the energy efficiency induced by IT will be
either blessing or curse (less traffic or more as a result of the optimization).
I will focus on the direct rebound effect, which can be described as follows: If a unit of output can be
produced using less units of input than before which means to improve the efficiency of the production
process increased demand for the output can result, countering the potential savings on the input factor.
Demand may increase because the price of a unit of output will usually decrease as a consequence of the
efficiency improvement.
“Price” in this context covers more than the monetary price. Many services require the customer to
spend some time on receiving the service or make other non-monetary contributions as well, so that the
total price of a unit of service in fact amounts to more than the money paid for it. For example, if passen-
ger transport is made faster (i.e., the production of the service “transportation” is made more efficient with
regard to time), it is likely that people will use the service more frequently or make longer trips because it
became “cheaper” in terms of time, even if the amount of money to be paid per kilometer remains the
same. We all know from everyday life that faster data transfer makes us download larger files. Another
1 Department of Informatics, University of Zurich, Binzmühlestrasse 14, CH-8050 Zurich, and Empa Materials
Science and Technology, CH-9014 St.Gallen, telephone +41 44 635 6724, hilty@ifi.uzh.ch, http://www.ifi.uzh.ch/isr
2 No difference is made between IT (Information Technology) and ICT (Information and Communication Technol-
ogy) throughout this paper.
Suggested citation: Hilty, Lorenz M.: Why energy efficiency is not sufficient some remarks on “Green by IT”. In: Arndt, H. K.
(ed.): EnviroInfo 2012, 26th International Conference Informatics for Environmental Protection, Shaker Verlag 2012, pp. 13-20
14
example is the increasing amount of electricity modern societies are using for computers, despite the dra-
matic progress in the energy efficiency of computation (Koomey/Berard/Sanchez/Wong 2011). The re-
bound effect materializes in a variety forms in the IT field (Hilty/Köhler/von Scheele/Zah/Ruddy 2006).
The crucial role of the rebound effect in the Green IT discussion results from the fact that the most
common argument in favor of the “green” potential of IT is based on the idea of energy efficiency. Let’s
formulate this argument for the “Green by IT” case, where the potential is much higher than in the “Green
in IT” case: If we use IT as an enabling technology to increase the energy efficiency of processes, which is
possible in almost any domain (industrial production, transport, media, heating, cooling, lighting, elec-
tricity grids), IT will substantially contribute to the necessary transition towards a “green” or low-carbon
economy. Given this perspective, the rebound effect can be used as a knockout argument against any hope
that increasing energy efficiency (by Green IT) could make the world a better place. This paper argues that
both extreme positions are false in their generalized form, because the same technology may either pro-
duce a rebound effect or not, depending on contextual factors.
It is certainly naïve to claim that investments in IT-related energy efficiency will automatically lead to
energy savings. This means to ignore all systemic effects (also known as third-order effects) of IT, to
which the rebound effect belongs. A review of existing studies on macro-level effects of IT showed that
only a few of them had actually taken third-order effects into account (Erdmann/Hilty 2010).
However, the opposite view (the rebound effect as a knockout argument) is no less simplistic, because it
ignores that some conditions may prevent or limit the rebound effect provoked by improved energy effi-
ciency. It also ignores other third-order effects as well (such as structural change), which may work in the
opposite (energy-saving) direction. Socio-technical systems have complex dynamics and their long-term
development depends on many interacting factors. The following case study on smart vending machines
demonstrates this in a manageable context and may provide some inspiration for a differentiated debate.
2. Case study: smart vending machines
The power consumption of vending machines first became an issue in the 1990s. In Japan, the country
with the highest density of vending machines, there were already 5.4 million machines, one for every 23
Japanese, which together accounted for 3.7 % of the electricity consumed in Japan (Coleman 1997). Many
countries started to look into the energy consumption of vending machines and potential improvements.
First studies showed that refrigerated beverage machines (usually providing soft drinks in cans or bottles)
operated on a 7x24 hour basis accounted for the bulk of the energy consumption; they were also found to
offer the highest improvement potential in terms of energy efficiency (Munter 1995, Aebischer/Huser
1998, Deru/Torcellini/Bottom/Ault 2003, Collins/Ellis 2005).
Vending machines were included in the the Japanese Top Runner program in 2002 (UNEP 2011) and in
the Energy Star program of the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2004 (EPA 2004a). Af-
ter the Japanese beverage vending machines had already improved during the 1990s and reduced their en-
ergy demand by 33% (IEA 2007, 109), the Top Runner program achieved an additional average reduction
of 37% per machine (UNEP 2011, 127). Within 15 years, the energy efficiency of the Japanese machines
had improved by 58%. A typical machine meeting the U.S. Energy Star criteria consumes at least 50%
(1500 kWh/a) less energy than non-qualifying models (EPA 2004b). Both the Japanese and the U.S. pro-
grams are voluntary; nevertheless they have proven to create quite some pressure on the manufacturers to
make progress towards energy efficiency.
The American anthropologist Joseph A. Tainter (2009) reports the following anecdote, showing the re-
bound effect from a business perspective: An entrepreneur proposed a new type of business, namely to
place and service soft drink vending machines in small offices where only a few people work. Everybody
wondered how this business model could ever be profitable. And if it could, why had no one else already
placed vending machines in all these small offices?
Suggested citation: Hilty, Lorenz M.: Why energy efficiency is not sufficient some remarks on “Green by IT”. In: Arndt, H. K.
(ed.): EnviroInfo 2012, 26th International Conference Informatics for Environmental Protection, Shaker Verlag 2012, pp. 13-20
15
The answer was found in the innovation that was going on at that time: A new type of vending machine
meeting the Energy Star requirements cut the energy cost of operating the machine roughly by half. These
new machines were equipped with intelligent energy management systems and sensors to detect the pres-
ence of people, which allowed them to enter a low-power mode when no potential customers were around
for a longer period. Some smart vending machines also include remote monitoring technologies based on
telemetric systems to significantly reduce labor and fuel costs for servicing the machines.
Given the fact that energy and servicing costs are the main components of the operating cost of a vend-
ing machine, the smart machines could be operated at a profit even in places where only a handful of peo-
ple per day might purchase a drink. Since the number of small offices happens to be much higher than the
number of big offices, this innovation obviously has a huge success potential in terms of the number of
machines being installed. This “success”, however, is the reason why the total power consumption of
smart vending machines will exceed the total consumption of the fewer “dull” vending machines that had
been in use before.
Tainter concludes: “In short, as technological improvements increase the efficiency with which a re-
source is used, total consumption of that resource may increase rather than decrease.” (Tainter, 2009)
Let’s analyse this case in some more detail. Statistics about numbers of enterprises by size class look
roughly the same in all economies (see Figure 1 for EU-27 as an example): There are many small enter-
prises and only a few big ones. Assuming that the places (sites) where people work are distributed over
size in roughly the same way, we can approximate the relation between potential customers and number of
places by a negative exponential function as shown in Figure 2. If this is true, the number of machines
must increase disproportionately if the number of potential customers needed to operate a machine at a
profit decreases. Figure 3 shows how a reduction of the average power consumption per machine from 10
kWh/day to 4 kWh/day would theoretically affect the total power consumption (based on rough estimates
for EU-27), which corresponds to the area of the respective rectangle.
Figure 1
Number of enterprises in millions by size class (EU-27, non-financial business economy, 2005)
Data Source: Schmiemann (2008)
Suggested citation: Hilty, Lorenz M.: Why energy efficiency is not sufficient some remarks on “Green by IT”. In: Arndt, H. K.
(ed.): EnviroInfo 2012, 26th International Conference Informatics for Environmental Protection, Shaker Verlag 2012, pp. 13-20
16
Figure 2
Number of locations in millions by number of potential customers per day
Source: Own worked example
Figure 3
Energy consumption per vending machine by number of profitable locations for machines in millions. The
example shows that the new generation of vending machines (“smart”, “green” machines) consume 18.5
GWh/day, whereas total consumption of the old generation was only 15.6 GWh/day (EU-27 data)
Source: Own worked example
Suggested citation: Hilty, Lorenz M.: Why energy efficiency is not sufficient some remarks on “Green by IT”. In: Arndt, H. K.
(ed.): EnviroInfo 2012, 26th International Conference Informatics for Environmental Protection, Shaker Verlag 2012, pp. 13-20
17
However, it is important to note that this argument is based on three implicit assumptions:
1. The increase in energy efficiency does sufficiently reduce the cost for the operator of the vending ma-
chine (even if potentially higher investment costs are included).
2. The number of vending machines operated is not limited by any other constraint than the profitability
of their operation.
3. Someone wants to do this business.
Since we are interested in avoiding rebound effects, we can also read these assumptions as pre-conditions
for the occurrence of a rebound effect and strive for situations in which they do not hold.
To begin with the last condition, we should assume that on a free market, a profit that can be made will
be made by someone sooner or later (unless explicit regulation prevents it). The actors with the highest in-
terest in a growing base of vending machines are their manufacturers. Not surprisingly, they report annual
growth rates of the vending business of about 10% (US-Machine.com 2010), which means that the U.S.
vending market doubles almost every seven years. The annual growth rate of the production of vending
machines in the U.S. is reported to be about 5% (Bool 2006). This number may look small, but is means
that every year more machines are produced than in the preceding year, and all of them will be installed
and start guzzling power. Thus, the installed base of machines may grow faster than production, depend-
ing on the average lifetime of a machine.
Regarding condition one, refrigerated vending machines may indeed constitute a special case. In many
other markets (for example: data centers), energy costs are small compared to other cost components. That
means that we would not expect a rebound effect to occur in reaction to pure energy efficiency improve-
ments there, This is exactly the reason why investments in energy efficiency are hard to motivate in this
sector. So it seems that there are only two types of energy efficiency improvements: those creating a re-
bound effect and those for which the market provides no sufficient incentives. This sounds quite sobering.
However, there is still one condition left.
The second condition is probably the most interesting one. Can the growth of a market be limited by
something else than the condition of profitability (if not by legal force)? The answer is yes. Looking at the
case of Japan, we can surprisingly observe that the installed base of vending machines has remained rela-
tively stable despite high efficiency progress. The number of all vending machines grew from 5.4 million
in the early 1990ies (Coleman 1997) to only 5.5 million in 2003 (IEA 2007). According to the Japan
Vending Machine Manufacturers Association, the number of machines even started to decline slightly in
2009 (JVMA 2010). If we focus on beverage vending machines (49% of all machines and still the most
energy-intensive ones, JVMA 2010), a stabilizing trend can be observed as well, as shown in Figure 4
(vertical bars). The top line shows the total energy consumption of all machines, which is decreasing due
to efficiency improvements (second line from the top).
This means that there was only a very moderate rebound effect in Japan during a period of significant
efficiency improvement. A possible explanation is that the scarcity of another resource limited the growth
of the installed base, namely space. In a densely populated country like Japan, it may be just impossible or
unaffordable to sacrifice more space to install additional machines. It is today possible to operate two or
three machines with the power that has been needed for only one machine in 1990s, but it is not possible
to operate them without claiming additional space. The machines became more energy-efficient, but not
smaller. Therefore, the increase in energy efficiency did not create an impulse of quantiative growth, just
because there was another factor limiting the number of machines.
To generalize this idea: It could be useful to look at the limiting factors in a given system before im-
plementing efficiency improvements. What factor does prevent which quantities from growing? Increasing
the efficiency with which a limiting factor is used may unleash the growth of that quantity, i.e. create a re-
bound effect. This is just a heuristic and much simpler than quantitative methods relying on price elas-
ticities however, it may sometimes be better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.
Suggested citation: Hilty, Lorenz M.: Why energy efficiency is not sufficient some remarks on “Green by IT”. In: Arndt, H. K.
(ed.): EnviroInfo 2012, 26th International Conference Informatics for Environmental Protection, Shaker Verlag 2012, pp. 13-20
18
Figure 4
Number of soft drink machines in Japan (bars), energy consumed per machine (top line), and total energy
consumed by the machines (second line from the top).
Source: Japanese Soft Drink Association, cited in IEA (2007, 109)
The history of the smart vending machine does not end here. Two developments changed the picture
at least in Japan considerably during recent years: First, a new generation of smart vending machines is
entering the market. Second, the Fukushima event made electric power a limiting factor for the operation
of vending machines, at least temporarily.
The new generation, let’s call it the second generation of smart vending machines, comes with exten-
sive touch screens, cameras for face recognition, mobile payment interfaces and some of them even with
free WiFi Internet access. They recommend products to users depending on their gender and age, and
sometimes even store their individual purchasing histories (Keller 2010). It is reported that the new ma-
chines triple sales (Finnegan 2010). No information has yet been published about the energy consumption
of the second generation of smart vending machines.
After the Fukushima event, vending machines were heavily criticized for their energy hunger when the
rest of the country was trying to save energy, given that their total demand still corresponds to half of a
nuclear power plant. A grass roots campaign was launched to persuade Coca-Cola to switch off their 980 000
machines (Hickman 2011). Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishira even suggested to get rid of all vending ma-
chines (Westlake 2012). The manufacturers reacted by announcing additional efficiency improvements.
3. Conclusions
Our case study on vending machines showed that a variety of conditions decide on the size of the rebound
effect. By generalizing some of the arguments that emerged from this analysis, we can create a list of heu-
ristic rules on how to avoid or minimize rebound effects when implementing energy efficiency measures.
Each rule is followed by a short discussion.
Suggested citation: Hilty, Lorenz M.: Why energy efficiency is not sufficient some remarks on “Green by IT”. In: Arndt, H. K.
(ed.): EnviroInfo 2012, 26th International Conference Informatics for Environmental Protection, Shaker Verlag 2012, pp. 13-20
19
1. Improve energy efficiency only in processes where energy costs are a minor cost component. This is
against economic rationality, but will for exactly this reason avoid a strong rebound effect. Imple-
menting such a measure requires using other forces than market forces, because the market will not
create enough incentive for the investment. Therefore, unfortunately, there is some risk of suboptimal
allocation (as being discussed, e.g., in the case of the light bulb ban in some countries).
2. If energy efficiency is improved in processes where energy costs are a major cost component, there is a
high risk of rebound effect, i.e. the success in terms of energy efficiency is likely to be annihilated by
the success in terms of quantiative growth. It is exactly this type of energy efficiency improvement
politicians promote with enthusiasm: They may believe to create a “win-win” situation because it looks
as if both, some financial investors (“the economy”) and “the environment” could profit from the de-
velopment. In fact, profits will in this case be highest if the rebound effect is highest and environmental
goals are not met. The rebound effect can be minimized in such situations by one of the following
measures:
a. Look for the limiting factor that currently prevents the system under study from growing. If the
limiting factor happens to be something else than energy, the risk of a rebound effect is small. For
example, the limiting factor of personal transportation systems is usually the time people spend in
traffic; increasing the speed of transportation therefore creates a rebound effect. Increasing the en-
ergy efficiency of vehicles, however, will create no or only a small rebound effect. In the vending
machine case study, we found that there must have been a limiting factor other than energy (before
the Fukushima event) in Japan that stabilized the number of machines already during the 1990s.
b. If energy is the limiting factor in the system under study, growth must be prevented by regulation if
the goal is to reduce energy use. This sounds politically incorrect (who would want to prevent eco-
nomic growth?), but it can be a logical consequence of setting reduction targets for energy con-
sumption (or energy-related CO2 emissions): Whenever something does not happen because en-
ergy is scarce, it will happen as soon as the energy efficiency of the process is improved; no over-
all reduction of energy use will occur and the political targets will not be met.
Provided that society would manage to use energy efficiency improvements without creating rebound ef-
fects: There are still other issues to be solved if we are to use the fascinating progress in IT for and not
against sustainable development. In particular, the material flows caused by ever shorter-lived technical
goods, in particular the increasing amout of small electronic devices entering the waste streams (Kräuchi/
Wäger/Eugster/Grossmann/Hilty, 2005; Köhler/Hilty/Bakker 2011), are going to affect the availability of
resources to our future generations (Wäger 2011).
Bibliography
Aebischer, B., Huser, A. (1998): Energieverbrauch von Automaten und Energiesparmöglichkeiten, Studie
des Kompetenzzentrums „Energie und Informationstechnik”. Bundesamt für Energie, Bern
Bool, H. (2006): Vending Machines, Ezine Articles, http://EzineArticles.com/204905 (last accessed 7
July, 2012)
Coleman, J. (1997): Japan’s vending machines not as upright as they look, The Sunday Gazette, December
28, 1997
Collins, R., Ellis, M. (2005): Analysis of the Potential for Minimum Energy Performance Standards for
Refrigerated Beverage Vending Machines, Prepared for The Australian Greenhouse Office and
NAEEEC under the National Appliance & Equipment Energy Efficiency Program
Deru, M., Torcellini, P., Bottom, K., Ault, R. (2003): Analysis of NREL Cold-Drink Vending Machines
for Energy Savings, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colorado
Suggested citation: Hilty, Lorenz M.: Why energy efficiency is not sufficient some remarks on “Green by IT”. In: Arndt, H. K.
(ed.): EnviroInfo 2012, 26th International Conference Informatics for Environmental Protection, Shaker Verlag 2012, pp. 13-20
20
EPA (2004a): Energy Star and Other Voluntary Programs, 2004 Annual Report, United States Environ-
mental Protection Agency
EPA (2004b): Energy Star University of Buffalo Case Study, United States Environmental Protection
Agency
Erdmann, L., Hilty, L. M. (2010): Scenario Analysis: Exploring the Macroeconomic Impacts of Informa-
tion and Communication Technologies on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, in: Journal of Industrial
Ecology, 14 (5), pp. 824-841
Finnegan, M. (2010): “Smart” Vending Machines Triple Sales, TechEye.net, 15 November 2010
GeSI, Smart 2020 (2008): Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age, A Report by The
Climate Group on behalf of the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI)
Hickman, L. (2011): The rise of the hi-tech vending machine. The Guardian, 31 March 2001
Hilty, L. M., Köhler, A., von Schéele, F., Zah, R., Ruddy, T. (2006): Rebound Effects of Progress in In-
formation Technology, in: Poiesis & Praxis: International Journal of Technology Assessment and
Ethics of Science, 1 (4), pp. 19-38
IEA (2007): Quantifying the Effect of Market Failure in the End-Use of Energy, International Energy
Agency, Paris
IEA (2011): Energy Efficiency Policy and Carbon Pricing, Energy Efficiency Agency, International En-
ergy Agency, Paris
JVMA (2010): Frequently Asked Questions, Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association,
http://www.jvma.or.jp/information/qa_01.html (last accessed 14 July 2012)
Keller, P. (2010): Smart vending machine: Culture & Society, Interaction Design, 11 August 2010
Köhler, A. R., Hilty, L. M., Bakker, C. (2011): Prospective Impacts of Electronic Textiles on Recycling
and Disposal, in: Journal of Industrial Ecology, 15 (4), pp. 496-511
Koomey, J., Berard, S., Sanchez, M., and Wong, H. (2011): “Implications of Historical Trends in the Elec-
trical Efficiency of Computing” Annals of the History of Computing, IEEE, March 2011, Volume:
33 (3), pp. 46 - 54
Kräuchi, Ph., Wäger, P., Eugster, M., Grossmann, G., Hilty, L. M. (2005): End-of-life Impacts of Perva-
sive Computing, in: IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 24 (1), pp. 45-53
Mingay, S. (2007): Green IT: The New Industry Shock Wave, Gartner Inc.
Munter, P. (1995): SEAS Energy Advisory Services, Cold & Hot Drinks Automatic Vending Machines
Preliminary Project on Improved Energy Efficiency, Haslev, May 1995
OECD (2010): Greener and Smarter ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change. Report to the Working
Party on the Information Economy (WPIE), OECD
Schmiemann, M. (2008): Enterprises by size class - overview of SMEs in the EU. Eurostat. Statistics in
focus, 31, 1
Tainter, J. A. (2009): Foreword, in: J. M. Polimeni, K. Mayumi, M. Giampietro, B. Alcott (2009): The
Myth of Resource Efficiency and the Jevons Paradox. Earthscan, London, pp. ix-xvi
UNEP (2011): Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth, A Re-
port of the Working Group on Decoupling to the International Resource Panel, United Nations En-
vironmental Program
US-Machine.com (2010): Vending Machines. http://us-machine.com/vending-machines.php (last accessed
14 July 2012)
Wäger, P. A. (2011): Scarce metals Applications, supply risks and need for action, in: Notizie di
Politeia, 27, pp. 104-112
WWF (2008): The potential global CO2 reductions from ICT use Identifying and assessing the opportu-
nities to reduce the first billion tonnes of CO2. WWF Sweden
... Undoubtedly, improving the material and energy efficiency of ICT and using electricity from renewable sources can be effective levers to reduce environmental impacts. However, efficiency and consistency strategies alone may not lead to absolute savings [105]-which is why sufficiency strategies are essential. ...
Article
Full-text available
ICT hold significant potential to increase resource and energy efficiencies and contribute to a circular economy. Yet unresolved is whether the aggregated net effect of ICT overall mitigates or aggravates environmental burdens. While the savings potentials have been explored, drivers that prevent these and possible counter measures have not been researched thoroughly. The concept digital sufficiency constitutes a basis to understand how ICT can become part of the essential environmental transformation. Digital sufficiency consists of four dimensions, each suggesting a set of strategies and policy proposals: (a) hardware sufficiency, which aims for fewer devices needing to be produced and their absolute energy demand being kept to the lowest level possible to perform the desired tasks; (b) software sufficiency, which covers ensuring that data traffic and hardware utilization during application are kept as low as possible; (c) user sufficiency, which strives for users applying digital devices frugally and using ICT in a way that promotes sustainable lifestyles; and (d) economic sufficiency, which aspires to digitalization supporting a transition to an economy characterized not by economic growth as the primary goal but by sufficient production and consumption within planetary boundaries. The policies for hardware and software sufficiency are relatively easily conceivable and executable. Policies for user and economic sufficiency are politically more difficult to implement and relate strongly to policies for environmental transformation in general. This article argues for comprehensive policies for digital sufficiency, which are indispensible if ICT are to play a beneficial role in overall environmental transformation.
... On the other hand, sceptics refer to the negative consequences of an increasing monopolization of international tech companies and the power consumption of the digital infrastructure both of which are discussed as unsustainable (Lange and Santarius, 2018). The latter is already partly observable at present when global infrastructure requires high amounts of power (Hilty, 2012). Digital infrastructures and devices such as blockchain or smartphones not only require large amounts of energy but also of natural resources (digital waste), counteracting the goals of an environmentally sustainable development. ...
Article
Full-text available
Starting from the framework of the ‘futures of sustainability’ this article asks whether or not digital technologies are discursively framed in such a way that they can offer a solution to socio-ecological problems. The initial observation is that the mediation and interactions of digitalization and sustainability have recently been the subject of political debates. Using the mapping procedure of situational analysis, the discourses around digital technologies as they emerge in the ideal-typical paths of sustainability – modernization, transformation and control – are identified and presented. The results show that similar technologies provoke varying discourses in the three possibility spaces of future sustainability, which can also be attributed to different normative foundations.
... zum Einsatz von ICT bereits Rebound-Forschung vorliegt (vgl. [24], [32], [33], [34] ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Der von der deutschen Bundesregierung beschlossene Rollout intelligenter Messsysteme (iMSys) gilt als „Ermöglicher“ der Energiewende, da sie den Grundbaustein einer Koordination von zunehmend dezentraler Erzeugung und steigender Anzahl elektrischer Verbraucher darstellt. Zudem stellt die Digitalisierung ein Werkzeug zur aktiven Teilnahme bisher klassischer Letztverbraucher am Energiesystem dar. Zugleich bringt die Digitalisierung der Infrastruktur jedoch einen Ressourcen- und Energieverbrauch mit sich. Im Rahmen der Analyse erfolgt eine ökologische Bewertung der über den Lebenszyklus benötigten Infrastruktur am Beispiel von zwei ausgewählten „Use Cases“: neben dem Prosumer wird der Anwendungsfall eines sog. Flexumers jeweils im Vergleich zum konventionellen Letztverbraucher untersucht. Der Fokus liegt auf der Quantifizierung der im Laufe des Lebenszyklus verursachten Treibhausgase und weiteren Emissionen sowie dem Bedarf an fossilen Rohstoffen. Im Zuge der angewandten „ICT Enablement Methodology“ werden zudem sogenannte Enablement- und Rebound-Effekte qualitativ untersucht. Die vergleichende Analyse zeigt in beiden Anwendungsfällen sowohl eine Erhöhung der direkten Emissionen als auch der Ressourcenintensität. Identifizierte Enablement-Effekte zeigen ein maßgebliches Potenzial für einen Beitrag zur Energiewende, welches berechnete Umweltauswirklungen übersteigt. Dabei müssen jedoch Rebound-Effekte verhindert werden.
... , 2 nd Efects of ICT on sustainability are often divided into 1 st and 3 rd order efects. 1 st order efects regard the energy and material consumption of devices during production, use and disposal [47]. 2 nd order efects regard changes in the application area, such as substitution and optimization to more resource efcient processes or change to more sustainable behaviors. 3 rd order efects regard broader societal and structural transitions toward sustainable lifestyles [30]. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Research on environmental sustainability in HCI is investigating the opportunities and hindrances technologies pose on living sustainably, beyond direct material impact of production, use and disposal. With this background, we focus on the smartphone camera as a tool that allows users to quickly and relatively effortlessly depict, save, share, access, augment or amplify information about the environment. Based on two years of participant observation studies, we present examples of how urban farmers use the smartphone camera as a tool in their practice. We discuss how the smartphone camera mediates human experiences of the environment and how certain uses of the camera may contribute to environmental sustainability. We highlight how the smartphone camera used as a tool in gardening was experienced to support (a) feelings of closeness or bonds towards the local environment and (b) the creation and sharing of knowledge
... If, as has been stated before, rebound effects are bound to recurrently occur as an effect of digitalization, it becomes important to discuss how to control them. Hilty [23] suggested that absolute levels of consumption must be set before turning to efficiency measures and summarised this position with the slogan "no efficiency without sufficiency". We believe there can be other factors (such as market saturation) that limit the consumption of resources and prevent rebound effects (see [14,45]), but also suggest that another option would be to turn to regulation or to policy instruments. ...
... Durch sie können digitale Effizienzsteigerungen aufgrund von veränderten Nutzungsmustern teilweise kompensiert oder sogar überkompensiert werden. In der Literatur werden diese Effekte als Rebound-Effekte und Induktionseffekte bezeichnet (Hilty 2012, Santarius 2015. Während Mehrkonsum aufgrund von Einsparungen von Zeit, Geld oder Raum als Rebound-Effekt bezeichnet wird, bezeichnet der Begriff Induktionseffekt Mehrkonsum aufgrund gesteigerter Optionen. ...
Chapter
Wenn die planetaren Grenzen nicht noch weiter überschritten werden sollen, dürfen die Verlockungen des Internets der Dinge (IoT) nicht dazu führen, dass auch noch die letzten analogen Anwendungen durch smarte Geräte ersetzt werden. Vielmehr sollten IoT-Anwendungen ausschließlich dort eingesetzt werden, wo sie tatsächlich zu einer absoluten Reduktion der Energie- und Ressourcenverbräuche beitragen und so nachhaltige Lebens- und Produktionsweisen unterstützen.
... After all, if it becomes even lower cost to ship goods from place to place, would we not use it more? In the context of energy, and using vending machines in Japan as a case study, Hilty suggests that there can be limits to growth if there is 'sufficiency' [19] in addition to efficiency. An upper bound or limit can be found if there is a constraint that limits growth; here he suggests availability of affordable civic space. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Increasingly digital technology is implicated in promoting ever more convenient access to products and services. At just a click, user interfaces promote 'instant gratification', deliberately leveraging human behaviours and addictions, to promote frequent interactions and drive consumer demand. Behind the friendly interface, digital services hide the complex impacts and externalities associated with products and services, which often involve human actors. The lack of attachment and transparency of the underlying actions and processes contributes towards a model in which consumerism is encouraged, and workforces can easily be marginalised as part of services that promote limitless growth in consumption. We use the example of 'free' parcel deliveries where digital services hide the true impact and costs of consumer actions. To help prompt discussion we focus on two main themes for further exploration: 1) the impact of e-commerce on the social justice of delivery workforces; and, 2) how we might find a limit in e-commerce to help curb limitlessness in the demand on energy intensive infrastructures and parcel delivery services.
Article
Energy resilience is an important focus for energy policy and research, since the energy system is increasingly facing challenges such as power shortages, e.g. due to increased renewable energy production, and risks of power outages caused by extreme weathers. Typically, energy resilience in these contexts focuses on infrastructure and securing supply of electricity despite disturbances. This paper contributes a complementary perspective on resilience, which takes households as a starting point for investigating resilience. Building on understandings of resilience from several disciplines, we suggest a definition of household energy resilience that can be used to explore how households can ensure a good life in a future with variable availability of electricity. Furthermore, we draw on current ideas of future domestic energy use in energy affluent contexts (backup energy sources, energy efficiency, flexibility, and energy sufficiency) to create a framework for exploring household energy resilience. We find a potential for diversity within and between the different ideas, that is not always present in mainstream visions of future energy use. With the perspective of household energy resilience, we wish to challenge the perception of electricity demand as non-negotiable and to reveal opportunities for supporting households in becoming more resilient in an uncertain future.
Article
This article investigates the effect of digitalization on energy consumption. Using an analytical model, we investigate four effects: (1) direct effects from the production, usage and disposal of information and communication technologies (ICT), (2) energy efficiency increases from digitalization, (3) economic growth from increases in labor and energy productivities and (4) sectoral change/tertiarization from the rise of ICT services. The analysis combines empirical and theoretical findings from debates on decoupling energy consumption from economic growth and from debates on green IT and ICT for sustainability. Our main results: Effects 1 and 3 tend to increase energy consumption. Effects 2 and 4 tend to decrease it. Furthermore, our analysis suggests that the two increasing effects prevail so that, overall, digitalization increases energy consumption. These results can be explained by four insights from ecological economics: (a) physical capital and energy are complements in the ICT sector, (b) increases in energy efficiency lead to rebound effects, (c) ICT cannot solve the difficulty of decoupling economic growth from exergy, (d) ICT services are relatively energy intensive and come on top of former production. In future, digitalization can only boost sustainability when it fosters effects 2 and 4 without promoting effects 1 and 3.
Article
Full-text available
Information technology (IT) is continuously making astounding progress in technical efficiency. The time, space, material and energy needed to provide a unit of IT service have decreased by three orders of magnitude since the first personal computer (PC) was sold. However, it seems difficult for society to translate IT's efficiency progress into progress in terms of individual, organizational or socio-economic goals. In particular it seems to be difficult for individuals to work more efficiently, for organizations to be more productive and for the socio-economic system to be more sustainable by using increasingly efficient IT. This article provides empirical evidence and potential explanations for this problem. Many counterproductive effects of IT can be explained economically by rebound effects. Beyond that, we conclude that the technological determinism adopted by decision-makers is the main obstacle in translating IT's progress into non-technical goals.
Article
Full-text available
The electrical efficiency of computation has doubled roughly every year and a half for more than six decades, a pace of change comparable to that for computer performance and electrical efficiency in the microprocessor era. These efficiency improvements enabled the creation of laptops, smart phones, wireless sensors, and other mobile computing devices, with many more such innovations yet to come. The Web Extra appendix outlines the data and methods used in this study.
Article
Full-text available
RFID technology is one of the forerunners of pervasive computing, and as such is expected to play an important role in many applications of daily life, especially in the form of smart labels. However, market investigations and a material analysis of a smart label shows that the use of smart labels does not considerably affect the recycling or disposal of packaging materials, if precautionary measures are taken, such as eco-design and, where necessary process modifications. Today in industrialized countries end-of-life information and communication technology (ICT) equipment is processed separately from other waste streams, given its material composition and appliance size. The waste management processes studied are municipal solid waste incineration and recycling of glass, paper, cardboard, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and aluminum.
Quantifying the Effect of Market Failure in the End-Use of Energy Energy Efficiency Policy and Carbon Pricing Frequently Asked Questions, Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association
IEA (2007): Quantifying the Effect of Market Failure in the End-Use of Energy, International Energy Agency, Paris IEA (2011): Energy Efficiency Policy and Carbon Pricing, Energy Efficiency Agency, International Energy Agency, Paris JVMA (2010): Frequently Asked Questions, Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association, http://www.jvma.or.jp/information/qa_01.html (last accessed 14 July 2012)
Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age, A Report by The Climate Group on behalf of the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI)
  • Gesi
GeSI, Smart 2020 (2008): Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age, A Report by The Climate Group on behalf of the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI)
The potential global CO2 reductions from ICT use – Identifying and assessing the opportunities to reduce the first billion tonnes of CO2
WWF (2008): The potential global CO2 reductions from ICT use – Identifying and assessing the opportunities to reduce the first billion tonnes of CO2. WWF Sweden
Smart vending machine: Culture & Society, Interaction Design
  • P Keller
Keller, P. (2010): Smart vending machine: Culture & Society, Interaction Design, 11 August 2010
The rise of the hi-tech vending machine. The Guardian
  • L Hickman
Hickman, L. (2011): The rise of the hi-tech vending machine. The Guardian, 31 March 2001
Foreword The Myth of Resource Efficiency and the Jevons Paradox Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth, A Report of the Working Group on Decoupling to the International Resource Panel Vending Machines
  • J A Tainter
Tainter, J. A. (2009): Foreword, in: J. M. Polimeni, K. Mayumi, M. Giampietro, B. Alcott (2009): The Myth of Resource Efficiency and the Jevons Paradox. Earthscan, London, pp. ix-xvi UNEP (2011): Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth, A Report of the Working Group on Decoupling to the International Resource Panel, United Nations Environmental Program US-Machine.com (2010): Vending Machines. http://us-machine.com/vending-machines.php (last accessed 14 July 2012)