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Digital Broadcasting

Volume 495: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the likely effects on levels of (a) energy demand and (b) sustainable use of materials of the proposals contained in the Digital Britain White Paper; and what assessment he has made of the likely effects on levels of UK carbon dioxide emissions of implementation of the proposals contained in that report. (281896)

Environmental impact issues are included in the Digital Britain impact assessments which were published with the final Report on 16 June and can be seen on:

http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/digitalbritain_impactassessment.pdf

New communications technologies have the potential to reduce energy demand and impact positively on UK carbon dioxide emissions. For example, next generation broadband services such as two-way video conferencing may lead to lower road congestion and pollution because they encourage greater use of tele-working which reduces the need to travel. This is because more people find it convenient to work from home or use tele-conferencing instead of physical meetings with their suppliers and customers. Evidence from Australia reveals that in 2006, over a third of SMEs introduced tele-working and that broadband was an influential factor in the decision.

Other potential benefits include a reduction in power consumption through a more efficient computing (e.g. cloud computing), enlarging the scope to do business online and providing options for monitoring the efficient use of transport fleets and home energy, among other things.

The Digital Britain action plan will support this by facilitating the rollout of new networks including shared networks and networks which use existing infrastructure. Laying down the necessary fibre network may increase carbon emissions and an increasing use of applications which require higher bandwidth (e.g. video conferencing) may lead to increased power consumption. The Government are seeking to minimise the energy demands and waste created by new technology and infrastructure by building in a sustainability element to the Digital Inclusion Champion’s role, and by including sustainability factors in public ICT procurement strategies. We have also pledged to work closely with manufacturers to examine the environmental impact of the digital radio upgrade.