Can Technology Be Green In Troubled Times?

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Despite the recession, companies need to forge ahead with energy saving – not least because of the imminent UK mandatory Carbon Reduction Commitment

With the recent introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) and increased pressures on government spending, it has never been more important for local authorities to reduce their carbon footprint and meet ‘green’ expectations.

The CRC is a proposed mandatory cap and trade scheme that will apply to large non-energy-intensive organisations (following on from recommendations announced in the 2007 Energy White Paper) in the public and private sectors. Set to be launched in January 2010, the CRC aims to reduce carbon emissions in these organisations by 1.2 million tonnes per year by 2020. The target firms will be identified during 2009, but with firms facing financial penalties if they don’t adhere to the carbon caps, local authorities and government departments need to start preparing immediately to ensure they have the skills and resources in place to make the most of CRC.

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Both public and private sector organisations are becoming more environmentally aware, but still have a long way to go to fully achieve the goals set out by the legislation. Last year, a Brocade survey of 8,000 European board-level decision makers found that 60 percent of UK respondents rated their company’s green credentials negatively. Of that 60 percent, just over a third said they were concerned about their company’s energy usage and only a minority of 16 percent said they actively sought to purchase environmentally friendly IT products.

The above figures reflect the sentiment of many UK organisations (both public and private sector), but where does this apathy originate and how can local authorities prepare to meet the CRC’s stipulations?

It’s not easy being green

When it comes to making energy savings, many organisations look at obvious quick fixes like installing energy efficient light bulbs, ensuring computers aren’t left on standby and turning lights off. These work fine in a domestic setting, but barely scratch the surface in a business environment. Information is the life-blood of any business and arguably the greatest drain on local authority resources tends to come from the very nucleus of their operations – the IT infrastructure, particularly the powering and cooling of data centres.

Recent IDC analysis indicated that global data centre electricity usage roughly doubled between 2000 and 2005 (to c. 158 billion kWh with Europe accounting for more than a quarter of all consumption). But what does this mean in real terms? Based on these figures, the carbon footprint for all the world’s data centres would be in the region of 900,000 million tonnes per year, with Europe accounting for just over 225,000 million tonnes of that number.