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02 Mar 2020, 14:10
Benjamin Wehrmann

German environment ministry seeks to make digitalisation climate-friendly

Clean Energy Wire

The German environment ministry (BMU) has presented an agenda aimed at optimising the benefits of digitalisation for environmental protection and climate action. "Every algorithm needs to include environmental protection," minister Svenja Schulze said, calling her ministry’s agenda "pioneering work" without precedent in Europe. "If unchecked, digitalisation will become a problem for the climate," Schulze said, referring to the energy needs of an ever-growing number of digital appliances and online activities. However, given the "right guardrails," the digital world also has "enormous potential" to help contain climate change and species extinction, Schulze said. The BMU is proposing more than 70 measures, including a registry for data centres to optimise their energy efficiency, guidelines to make mobile phones and other appliances last longer and more transparency in online retailing.
Manfred Fischedick of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy said the coming decade will be crucial in ensuring that digitalisation becomes a force for environmental protection rather than another ecological burden. "It's about reducing the resource and energy needs of digitalisation and bundling its positive features, for example in the transition in the energy and transport sectors or in the circular economy," he said.

The energy transition will make Germany's power system become much more reliant on digital technology to manage the intermittent energy supply of renewable power sources and make it flexible enough to be matched with peaks in demand. However, rapidly growing data traffic also boosts the energy needs and thus the climate impact of digital technology. This, for example, becomes evident at Germany's main internet hub Frankfurt, where computing centres have caused a growth in overall energy consumption despite households and industry using less

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