Sebastian Lehnhoff, Philipp Staudt, Richard T. Watson
Business & Information Systems Engineering
The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated society’s ability to adapt to a crisis and its ingenuity in developing solutions. Digitalization has played a major role in handling the virus. Conferencing tools have allowed for remote work and homeschooling (Hacker et al. 2020), mobile applications have helped to trace infections (Trang et al. 2020), and personal GPS data gave scientists the opportunity to create models of mobility patterns and evaluate the success of social distancing measures (Chang et al. 2021). A similar, but at least an order of magnitude greater, effort is needed from Information Systems and Computer Science scholars to develop solutions that reduce carbon emissions to finally decelerate climate change effectively. Practitioners have shown a strong willingness to implement such solutions. In September 2020, Google pledged to run on carbon-free energy 24/7 by 2030, meaning that it will shift from meeting carbon reduction goals by buying renewable generation certificates to satisfying its energy demand through generated carbon-free electricity in realtime (Miller 2020). This is a major milestone as, currently, corresponding carbon-free energy products are not always available for all data centers. To achieve its goals, Google has identified options to run its data centers flexibly, for instance, by scheduling certain tasks, such as photo enhancement, to be executed in times of low overall energy demand. This is an example of where practice is ahead of research. While the flexibility of data centers has long been promoted, there is still little research on information systems that can help corporations to assess their ability of switching to real-time carbon-free energy supply. This is a major field of research for Information Systems scholars focused on sustainability (Dedrick 2010).