The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) has published a report on the potential impact of cloud computing on energy use and carbon emissions in China and several other countries. (The China section of the report is available here. GeSI press release here.)
The press release says, “The increased use of cloud computing services by businesses in China can reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 2 mega tonnes,” (assuming 80% of all organisations across the country adopt the technology, while permanently switching off their on-premise servers). The analysis focused only on “readily available cloud-based email, customer relationship management (CRM) and groupware applications.”
The key finding is that this use of cloud computing services instead of dedicated servers “would create approximately 143 million USD or 899 million Yuan of economy-wide savings in energy bills. Around 65 per cent of these potential savings relate to small or micro-sized firms.” That is a big number, but like most big numbers it is small in the context of the total Chinese economy.
“Cloud-based email, CRM and groupware are only the tip of the iceberg. In 2008, GeSI published the SMART2020 study that found that large-scale, systems-enabled broadband and information and communication technologies could deliver a 15 per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions and save up to EUR 600 billion by 2020.” said Luis Neves, GeSI Chairman in the press release.
If savings of this magnitude are really available to Chinese firms we might expect substantial uptake of cloud computing service options. The possibility of reductions in the rate of increase of demand for electric power might also lead the government to promote and encourage adoption of cloud services. China is not as energy-constrained as India, but that is only because the state is devoting massive resources to building new power plants and distribution infrastructure. Improvements in efficient use of energy should also be a major public policy goal in China. According to this study, cloud computing might be a contributor to improved business energy efficiency.