Billstein, Tova; Rydberg, Tomas; Björklund, Anna
There is an increasing demand for climate reporting of digital solutions and Internet services. However, the impacts of data transmission have historically been the least studied part of the ICT sector and in the few studies that exist, the magnitude of internet energy intensity varies by a scale as large as 20,000, indicating that the assessment of network traffic is a complex task. It is often a controversial subject of discussion, and there is currently no consensus on how to correctly assess it. In an attempt to guide process development within the area in the hopes that future LCAs will be created, the report sought to identify and address potential challenges that might occur when assessing the environmental impact of network traffic during its life cycle. Through a combination of a literature review and semi-structured qualitative research interviews with experts within the field of research, several areas in the form of knowledge gaps, unsolved methodological issues and areas in need of further development were identified and addressed. The results showed that the choice of system boundaries had a significant impact on the result. Challenges were also identified in the form of different data collection methods, measurement units for electricity intensity, allocation procedures and assumptions made on an inventory level. The lack of transparency and data availability also contributed, as well as the age of the data. In an attempt to address said challenges, a specific set of system boundaries and subsystems were proposed. Allocation was deemed particularly difficult at the endpoints of network transmission, whereby allocation by time seemed to be the preferable option. Market observations showed evident signs of development in the right direction in regard to transparency, and the age of data was discussed in terms of studying energy efficiency gains or limiting the validity of the LCA results to one year. Further research is needed in several areas.