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Harnessing Software as a Green-Energy Solution

Information and communications technology has the potential to cut energy use and reduce greenhouse emissions by as much as 15 percent in the next decade while saving up to $750 billion, according to one estimate. That is an attractive proposition for businesses and governments looking for ways to tighten their belts in a slow economy, so it became a key focus of discussions this week between BSA member-company technologists and their counterparts in government as part of our annual CTO Forum.

Three opportunities stood out:

  1. The transition to cloud computing can save billions in energy costs. Energy use per user is reduced by at least 30 percent when organizations move business applications like email to the cloud. That is because cloud architectures use fewer servers to run more programs, and they match server capacity with actual demand.
  2. Software can save energy by prioritizing building retrofit options. Buildings are the linchpin for national energy-savings goals because they account for 40 percent of all energy consumption. With software solutions, we can identify the most inefficient buildings and the most cost-effective means for cutting their consumption. Government, as the nation’s single largest landlord, can drive this process forward by piloting the software tools and kick-starting commercial retrofitting efforts that create clean-energy jobs, a priority for policymakers.
  3. Software-driven communication tools can reduce the need for local and long-distance travel, dramatically cutting costs, boosting productivity, and saving enormous amounts of energy. Collaboration software, telepresence, VoIP, video conferencing and other software-enabled options for communicating offer a world of new possibilities for working productively with colleagues who are far away. Using those tools to replace 10 percent of business air travel could reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 36.3 million tons annually. Likewise, a study by the Telework Research Network has found the federal government could save nearly $3.8 billion from boosting telework as a result of reduced real estate costs, electricity savings, reduced absenteeism, and reduced employee turnover.

Taken together, the potential is almost as amazing as the technologies themselves. But we need to accelerate the use of modern software tools to achieve these savings. And over the long run, continued software innovation can be a vital catalyst for helping us address some of our national energy challenges, while also creating the new jobs and new cost savings we need to make the country more competitive.

Robert Holleyman


As President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance from 1990 until April 2013, Robert Holleyman long served as the chief advocate for the global software industry. Before leaving BSA to start his own venture, Cloud4Growth, Holleyman led the most successful anti-piracy program in the history of any industry, driving down software piracy rates in markets around the world.

Named one of the 50 most influential people in the intellectual property world, he was instrumental in putting into place the global policy framework that today protects software under copyright law. A widely respected champion for open markets, Holleyman also was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, the principal advisory committee for the US government on trade matters.

Holleyman was a leader in industry efforts to establish the legal framework necessary for cloud-computing technologies to flourish. He was an early proponent for policies that promote deployment of security technologies to build public trust and confidence in cyberspace. And he created a highly regarded series of forums for industry executives and policymakers to exchange points of view and forge agreements on the best ways to spur technology advances and promote economic growth.

Before heading BSA, Holleyman was a counselor and legislative adviser in the United States Senate, an attorney in private practice, and a judicial clerk in US District Court. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, a J.D. from Louisiana State University, and has completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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