Possible Impact of Digitisation on the Environment and Energy Consumption

  • Mathias Kirchner

Digitisation will affect energy use and the environment through many different channels. It will decrease energy and resource use directly by providing better technologies and the availability of (almost) immaterial goods. This, however, will also contribute directly to the generation of "e-waste". Economic effects could potentially mitigate positive environmental impacts due to rebound effects (i.e., increased demand due to lower prices, economic growth). The most decisive effect is likely to be systemic, i.e., structural changes in value added chains as well as social and institutional changes. Digitisation has the capability to facilitate a socio-ecological transformation of the society. This is necessary, for example, to meet the climate change mitigation goals of the Paris Agreement 2015. We look at the advantages of a smart grid to illustrate this capability. Safeguarding this capability will require a supporting framework, such as an ecological tax reform, the consideration of social acceptance and a global perspective.