PhD Internships – Scoping the carbon footprint of software
We are looking for an experienced and enthusiastic PhD student with an interest in sustainability who would like to help Imperial College in our journey towards Net Zero, while deploying your analytical skills to help us investigate our carbon footprint and ways to reduce it. Experience with statistical and coding software is essential, for example Python and Django.
This position involves working with both academic and operational teams at Imperial College to understand the environmental impact of our procurement and supply chain. This is an ongoing challenge across the sector, which is why Imperial College has partnered with the University of Edinburgh to begin to tackle the impact of our software and ICT equipment.
To understand and improve Imperial’s carbon reporting and analysis by:
- Working out how much of our software energy usage and carbon footprint is on site (Scope 2 carbon emissions) versus off site (Scope 3 carbon emissions)
- Estimating the scope 2 emissions of running software internally.
- Analysing the carbon emissions factors of software in our scope 3 emissions and improving the methodology where needed.
Outside of the Software Collaboration
- Capture and Analyse PC and Mac (desktop and laptop) power usage in certain power scenarios (for example, using a laptop on battery vs. trickle charge), using a sample of software run by Imperial.
- Review the device lifecycle and review the overall footprint per device, including manufacture, procurement, usage and disposal.
Further information can be found on the job specification here.
- An estimate of the College’s carbon emissions because of internally-run software, and what/who the highest emitters are.
- An improved methodology and emissions factors for carbon emissions because of externally-run software, and what/who the highest emitters are.
- Recommendations on actions that can be taken to reduce emissions because of both internal and externally run software.
- Working with ICT and Sustainability Hub colleagues to recommend further work to reduce carbon emissions, whether through internal behavioural change or external engagement with suppliers.
Outside of the Software Collaboration
- Based on hardware power data, recommend best practices for device usage such as software scheduling, migrate to cloud etc
- Create a live usage dashboard across the device estate so power usage can be monitored live and historically – likely using current ICT tools such as Splunk.
- Report on the device lifecycle and its carbon impact, contributing to organisational behaviour change.
What are Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions?
- Scope 1: Direct emissions that are owned/controlled by the company, such as the burning of natural gas in our CHP unit or burning fuel in our vehicles.
- Scope 2: Indirect emissions as a result of energy we purchase. This includes all the energy used to run our ICT equipment on site.
- Scope 3: Indirect emissions upstream and downstream, caused by our supply chain. This includes all the equipment we procure, as well as the software we purchase.
Imperial’s Scope 3 reporting is currently based largely using a standard sector-wide spreadsheet which calculates emissions based off spend data by category. As part of the Sustainable Imperial programme, we want to further interrogate our Scope 3 data to determine where we can improve our data quality and reduce our footprint. Currently, this methodology indicates that ICT spend makes up 30% of our emissions from the Procurement & Supply Chain for 22-23, making it the highest emitting sector within procurement. This is hypothesised to be a result of the generic emissions factor applied to software spend being for computer gaming.
This project aims to work alongside the University of Edinburgh to determine if this methodology is providing an accurate estimate of emissions from ICT software and equipment within scope 3. There is further scope to explore the scope 2 emissions resulting from ICT equipment and software ran internally.
How to Apply
This role will be funded by the ICT budget and work with Neil Hanham, the ICT sustainability lead. A similar project is underway at Edinburgh University under Sion Pickering in their Procurement Team, which will provide the opportunity for collaboration and looking at two contrasting datasets. You will also work closely with the procurement team (Andy Hitchman); estates data team (Colin Nye); and the Sustainability Strategy Director (Harriet Wallace). It will be a 3-month posting at up to 20 hours per week in the first instance, with the potential to extend by mutual agreement.
If you are interested, please contact Neil Hanham, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Harriet Wallace, email@example.com, by midnight on February 21st with a CV an up to 1 page expression of interest. You will need proof of permission to work in the UK to take up the role – the 20 hours per week is compatible with a student visa. Please use the subject Sustainability Intern to help with e-mail filtering.