Digital sufficiency, our more sustainable digital strategy

By ENGIE - 23 September 2020 - 15:30

It is part of why we are here: the transition to a carbon-neutral economy lies at the very heart of our strategy. This goal obviously relates to every area of the company, starting with our digital infrastructure and uses. In a word, we are fully committed to a Green IT approach, and as such, our digital strategy will open the way to more sustainable digital consumption.


Digital sufficiency, a global challenge

The electricity consumed by digital infrastructure and its uses currently accounts for nearly 10% of the world’s overall consumption[1]! In other words, global digital technology consumes five times more natural resources than all the cars in France put together. And this figure doesn’t look like decreasing any time soon...


In fact, the volume of data exchanged and stored continues to grow, and our day-to-day lives are increasingly dependent on electronic devices ... we consume digital technology everywhere and all the time. Around the world, over four billion people spend more than five hours on the Internet every day! There’s no doubt, then, that digital sufficiency is a crucial issue.


Switching off chargers when they’re not in use, unsubscribing from newsletters we no longer read, rationalising our use of email ... we are all familiar with eco-friendly practices, and people are gradually becoming aware of the need for more responsible, more sustainable consumption of digital technology. Green IT is becoming a necessity. 


You cannot have the energy revolution without a digital revolution! For the digital revolution to be ecologically sustainable in the long term, it needs technical solutions provided by the energy revolution. And the energy revolution needs digital technology so that it can develop, be accessible and remain agile. This is the principle steering our purpose statement, the collective goal we have here at ENGIE.


ENGIE is striving both to decrease its own consumption in respect of digital technology and raise awareness of the need for everyone to reduce their digital footprint.


Working with our clients to make digital sufficiency a sustainable commitment

Since the very beginning, ENGIE has set itself the mission of accelerating the transition to a carbon-neutral world, a goal initially manifested in our offerings for our clients.


Basically, we are working to improve the energy performance of our clients’ data centres, the electricity consumption of which could account for 11% of the world’s consumption by 2030.


For example, in the Netherlands, ENGIE has designed and constructed a particularly innovative data centre for Interxion, one of Europe’s largest suppliers of data centre colocation services. Besides supplying it with 100% renewable energy, ENGIE has developed a remarkable cooling system, called ATES (cooling through aquifer thermal energy storage).


In the United Kingdom, ENGIE has been involved in designing Merlin, the new Capgemini data centre in Swindon. Merlin is one of the most virtuous and eco-efficient data centres in the world from an environmental point of view. Operating at its current capacity, its annual CO2 emissions are 3,950 tonnes less than those of a classic design. If all British data centres were as efficient, the reduction in CO2 emissions would be the equivalent of all the country’s transport-related emissions. In addition, over 90% of Merlin’s components are reusable and recyclable. 


We put long-term contracts in place with all our clients with the intention of directly linking a renewable production capacity (solar, wind, hydro) with their data centres. 


ENGIE is also aiming to support the digital technology giants in their transition to digital sufficiency. How? By providing them with green electricity. In September 2019, Microsoft and ENGIE announced the signature of a contract whereby ENGIE in Texas would produce and supply 230 MW of solar- and wind-generated electricity, bringing Microsoft’s renewable energy capacity up to over 1,900 MW. This contract also provides for the implementation of Darwin, the digital data management platform developed by ENGIE with the assistance of Microsoft Azure, the Intelligent Cloud. Darwin will help to optimise the performance of ENGIE’s wind, solar and hybrid plants worldwide.


ENGIE is transforming its infrastructure using a Green IT approach 

We are applying what we are doing for our clients to our own infrastructure. For over three years, the ENGIE teams have been working to reduce the environmental footprint of the Group’s data centres in three major ways: 


  • pooling and consolidating the IT equipment in data centres to reduce the use of primary hosting resources,
  • extending server lifecycles to increase the amortisation period and reducing the quantity of carbon emitted during the production and recycling of equipment, 
  • placing a number of applications to the Cloud to enable data centre operators to benefit from the best unified knowledge platforms and data centre energy management 


The results?

  • electricity consumption: -10 000 MWh per year  
  • infrastructure: -5 000 m² of data centers
  • electronic waste: -10 tonnes per year
  • server-related CO2 emissions: -1 450 tonnes per year


Our work to extend the lifetime of our equipment is a pillar of our digital strategy, How? By not automatically replacing equipment and endeavouring to give it a second life rather than having it destroyed. And the results are spectacular! We have achieved a reduction of nearly 30% in the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions relating to the use of our equipment.


A digital communication strategy oriented towards digital sufficiency

Our communication activities must also demonstrate our commitment to digital sufficiency. That is the challenge at the root of our #GreenerDigital campaign, a concrete illustration of our digital strategy.


#GreenerDigital, is a movement that has arisen from collective reflection, and is paving the way for our transition to leaner digital technology. The objective? Raising awareness and encouraging businesses, partners and employees to adopt good practices to help with the drive towards digital sufficiency.


The philosophy of this programme is to give everyone an opportunity to make an impact on their behaviour. The challenge is to identify individual actions that can have an impact at collective level whilst avoiding recommending a reduction in digital technology”, explains Julien Marcaut, Vice President, Digital Communication.


Our sustainable digital communication strategy is more than just a communication and awareness-raising campaign, it is:


  • an eco-designed website (what is this?)
  • a responsible media procurement policy
  • rationalised and optimised social network content 
  • making internal and external audiences aware of eco-friendly practices
  • moving to Dark mode


A figure: 120. This is the average number of emails received every day by any one employee. At ENGIE, we have introduced a guide to best practices to limit excess emails. With the help of Yammer - our corporate social network - and Teams, our employees can interact and work in a more collaborative manner without multiplying the number of emails they send. 

FOCUS: What is an eco-designed website?

Paragraph content

Web eco-design consists of building websites whilst achieving the best compromise between performance and a minimal impact on the environment.


A website requires resources, however: electricity is consumed by the server, displays on browsers and the manufacture of devices and terminals etc. The Web Energy Archive study supported by ADEME (the French environment and energy management agency) has calculated that France’s 100 leading websites consume as much electricity as 3,077 households, i.e. 8.3 Gwh per year.


Eco-designing a website using a Green IT approach means:


  • Prioritising hosting servers powered with green electricity.
  • Instead of having 100% green solutions, sourcing supplies from partners that offset their carbon footprint.
  • Some recent technologies such as lazy loading optimise server energy consumption by only displaying items on the screen as and when necessary.
  • Giving consideration to intelligent content management: media compression, regular archiving etc.
  • Using Dark mode, which saves terminal batteries and reduces screen consumption.
  • Prioritising an efficient and lean design, avoiding animation and other video loops that enrich neither the user experience nor the user journey.


The result? The site consumes less energy throughout its value chain, from its operation to the use made of it. Optimising and rationalising content helps to significantly decrease requests to the servers hosting content. Easier site maintenance. For users, content is displayed more rapidly, devices are used less, leading to an optimised overall experience. In a word? A more sustainable website

Whilst all these actions arouse optimism, there is still a great deal to do in respect of digital sufficiency. It is therefore with humility and in a spirit of co-creation that ENGIE is embarking on this approach. None of those involved in energy or digital technology has all the answers, and it is together that we can innovate and speak of Green IT not as a goal, but as a reality.

1. New technologies’ wasted energy. CNRS News
2. Futura sciences, Quel est l’empreinte carbone d’un e-mail ? What is the carbon footprint of an email?)
3. Parliamentary report by Cédric Villani, AI for Humanity
4. Google tests /