Digitalization and Energy Consumption. Does ICT Reduce Energy Demand?

Cover image Ecological EconomicsDigitalization is said to bear large potentials to reduce energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, criticism has been raised that digitalization may increase energy demand. Which effect will overall digitalization of the economy and society bring about? This article by Steffen Lange, Johanna Pohl and Tilman Santarius in the journal Ecological Economics combines empirical and theoretical findings from debates on decoupling energy consumption from economic growth and from debates on green IT and ICT for sustainability and finds four distinctive effects. The overall conclusion is: Digitalization will not automatically bring about reductions in energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions, but needs to be actively shaped by policies and measures in order to deliver those.