Focus on Benefits of Fast Broadband: CO2 and fuel Savings

09/03/2011 in Big Society, Broadband by Charles Paxton


First published on Better Cumbria Blog 8/3/11

“Could Cumbria count fibre-optic internet connections as remedial action against CO2 emissions? Perhaps we should be able to, because fast broadband could save up to 4,600 km equivalent of CO2 emissions per household, per year! These figures from Jan Schindler’s presentation The Socio-economic impact of fibre to the home given at the 36th European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communication, held in Turin, Italy, on September 19 - 23, 2010. If we extrapolate from these figures we can start to see the aggregated potential, for example, in the Big Society Eden Vanguard Pilot area a proposed broadband pilot scheme of about 1000 homes could save the equivalent of up to about 460,000 km of CO2 emissions per year. I don’t know how Jan worked out the figure, but if we said hypothetically that the average CO2 emissions rating in the UK is 162 g/km (Source: then that would be a possible saving of up to 74,520 kgs of CO2 per year from the Big Society Eden broadband pilot project.

Some of the best landscapes in England are threatened with ruination at the moment by subsidised wind farm projects that won’t save very much CO2 because of the need for back-up power generation from conventional power stations due to intermittency of the wind. Sometimes it blows near a turbine, sometimes it doesn’t - all the time there needs to be a stable provision for households and businesses. During recent cold winters wind energy apparently contributed pitifully little energy, click here for coverage.

For more on this please see Dr. Mike Hall’s video presentation part 2 on the subject of the dubious claims of CO2 savings from wind.  Please click here to read more about the issue in Eden from Rory Stewart, our MP for Penrith and The Border. I’m grateful for his defense of our landscape!

I believe that subsidy of fibre-optic internet connection to homes and premises instead of to wind turbines (where local people don’t want them) would be a far better use of public money as it would have multiple and varied benefits in addition to reducing  CO2 emissions. What else does a Wind turbine do? It has but one role.

Here is some encouraging information about the role of broadband from the 36th European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communication, held in Turin, Italy, on September 19 - 23, 2010

• “Usage of FTTH services has positive impact on environment
-Less commuting and therefore less traffic
-Less business travel
-Less long distance transport of patients
• Key results ofPricewaterhouseCoopers/Ecobilan STUDY 2009:
-The environmental impact of the deployment of a typical FTTH network  will be positive within less than 15 years in average
-Intelligent deployment (e.g. using sewers and existing ducts) can even improve the positive impact of FTTH-Using FTTH and FTTH services can save up to CO2 equivalent of driving a car for 4,600 km per year –for every household!

• FTTH has a positive impact on the environment: 1 million users connected -at least 1 million tons of CO2 saved
• FTTH is a key sustainable utility driver to low carbon economic development.
• FTTHcan help nations, regions, municipalities, operators to meet their carbon reduction objective.”


7 Responses to Focus on Benefits of Fast Broadband: CO2 and fuel Savings

  1. Note that it’s not essential to have FTTH to make these savings. The millions of people in the UK using the internet today must be saving loads of CO2.

    ps - Overall wind power is about 30% efficient with them spread across the country.

    • I think you are partially right, Somerset. Current internet users are likely to be reducing some emissions. Especially the ones who video conference.
      However, I suspect that it won’t be until people come to have reliable superfast internet with use of HD video conferencing that we’ll see the lifestyle changes that are expected to reduce travel to work significantly. When we can video conference in groups with crystal clarity and low latency, I think we’ll see a lot less unnecessary travel.

      Regarding your PS, I regret directing you straight to part 2 of Dr. Hall’s presentation. I think it’s well worth seeing from the beginning. At point 18:21 he discusses efficiency of a sample of ten Cumbrian Windfarms and Dr. Hall quotes OFGEM in saying the mean average efficiency for these wind power stations over three years from 2003-2005 was just 24.4%.

      If the subsidies made available for wind turbines in the UK were removed then we’d probably have more money to devote to rural NGA broadband, and I can reasonably imagine that communities like Cumwhinton wouldn’t be repeatedly beset by wind developers eager to get about 60% of their revenues from tax subsidy, not the unreliable wind resource.

      The good news is that more and more of these wasteful applications are being rejected, the bad news is that community landscape conservation groups have to foot the bill to conduct a defense of their local environment, and public inquiries cost a lot of public money.

  2. I’m unconvinced by the video conferencing argument personally, large companies and public sector bodies already have as much high quality bandwidth as they need but people still like to interact face to face and it is ultimately more effective to do so.

  3. It was put correctly at a meeting last night: Most technologies that will use the speeds talked about have not been invented yet. It combines with what I say about the roads needing to be built first before we could drive over land easily. The same is true about internet access.

    Video conferencing specifically tends to be more popular than you may think with relatives dotted around the country and even further.

  4. I agree Craig. We can be more productive and conserve personal energy as well as fuel if we cut out travel time. As a gentleman was telling me on Thursday, business travel can get very wearing.

  5. Excellent post !! What cms do you use on your www ?

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