£300 million a year wasted

The third PC Energy report, commissioned by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy, also found that while cost control is high on the agenda, UK organisations were wasting £300 million per year powering idle computers alone. And it calculated that, if the 17 million workers in the UK who regularly used a computer turned it off at night, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.3 million metric tons – the equivalent of removing 243,440 cars from the road.

“There is a significant impact that IT can make in reducing energy consumption in this country,” Karayi added. “Some 78 per cent of those we questioned had a PC at work, yet 67 per cent of UK workers said they believed their employers should be doing more to reduce power consumption.”

David Tebbutt, programme director at Freeform Dynamics and co-author of Green IT for Dummies saw parallels between his own research and that of the PC Energy report. “IT’s potential to tackle power issues is profound,” he said. “Even its ability to facilitate collaboration means I can be very closely and intimately engaged with colleagues online, which all means I don’t have to get in a car as often.” And this is without taking into account the affect that more efficiently run PCs, data centres and networks could also have. But where does the IT function fit into the bigger picture, beyond its current remit?

Prepare for the Green Turf Wars

The fact that IT doesn’t have sight of the electricity bill reminded Tebbutt of the old battle for power between IT and telecommunications. “Quite separate from what needs to be done, I remember those in telecoms divisions being quite protective of their old switch and exchange systems, and fighting a losing battle not to get sidelined as communications came more and more under IT’s control,” he explained.

“Now you have facilities, who usually have the electricity bills coming to them. But then IT, as an ever-increasing consumer of energy, doesn’t even see the bills. I think in some cases that facilities are frightened of talking to IT, given that it is such a large consumer and because it also has the means of reducing that consumption – even building security could end up under the control of IT. In fact, wherever IT reaches should be under the CIO’s [chief information officer’s] umbrella.”

Here, Tebbutt also agreed that CSR had a crucial role to play in neutralising internal politics and focusing individual parts of an organisation on a central goal. But he warned: “As a function, CSR is not mature. In some cases, it’s seen as a bit of a veneer, where an organisation makes the right noises and is seen to be doing only superficial things to reduce consumption.

“For a company to live up to their CSR commitments, it has to have more environmentally friendly procurement processes, from IT to through the entire supply chain. CSR should look to improve the whole area of energy consumption and company culture and staff behaviour. And so, IT has to be looked at as a means by which to make a lot more areas more efficient than it currently does, including office equipment, lighting, heating, security and even the lifts,” said Tebbutt.

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Miya Knights

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