Scottish Green IT Credentials Called Into Question

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Despite the fact that the Scottish Government is championing green IT, a survey finds sustainable technology is not a top priority nearly half of Scottish businesses

Despite the Scottish government’s aim to get a new generation of green and sustainable data centres built in Scotland, research has found that nearly half of Scottish business don’t think sustainable IT is important.

The survey of 100 senior Scottish executives, carried out by market researcher Vanson Bourne, found 88 percent were unaware of how much power their IT department uses, making cost and carbon reduction targeting difficult.

With the UK facing growing challenges around data centre power availability and future environmental regulation, such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), the regional government is positioning Scotland as an alternative, green data centre destination due to its significant power surplus potential, along with efforts to increase its availability of renewable energy supplies.

But with an estimated £1 billion investment planned for new Scottish data centres, IT services and technology company and the survey’s commissioner, Morse warned there was a danger that the haphazard approach on the part of Scots businesses to understanding energy consumption could undermine Scotland’s green credentials.

“Clearly green IT isn’t high on the agenda for a number of Scottish businesses at the moment,” said Grant Niven, Morse director for Scotland. “Scottish businesses are poised to be the first to benefit from the significant data centre investment in the region. However, the research reveals that they risk missing out on the business and green IT benefits unless they better manage their power usage.”

The study also found 41 percent of Scottish businesses have not set targets for reducing the amount of energy that their IT consumed and only 30 percent actually charged their IT department for the power it uses.

“It’s no wonder that only 59 percent of Scottish businesses are working towards a set energy reduction target,” said Niven. “Setting targets, measuring against them and then billing individual departments for their energy consumption is crucial because it increases accountability, giving departments the incentive to become more energy efficient.”

At the same time, 70 percent of Scottish businesses said cutting IT costs and reducing environmental impact were not opposing objectives. Yet almost half (48 percent) said that making their data centres greener would be “too expensive”. And nearly two thirds (65 percent) said they purchased their IT equipment on a departmental basis, rather than centrally through the IT department.

“Undoubtedly Scotland has a lot going for it – a cool climate (which can help a data centre use free-air cooling to get a lower PUE), ready access to renewable energy and a skilled workforce. However, many Scottish businesses need to stop simply paying lip service to the green IT agenda. With the CRC coming into force from April 2010, businesses need to start making plans to reduce their energy consumption now and IT is the obvious place for many to start,” added Niven.

The Scottish Government responded to the survey findings by stating: “Climate change demands urgent action from everyone. Through our economic recovery programme and the Climate Change Act, the most ambitious legislation in the world, we are putting the transition to a low carbon economy at the top of the agenda.”

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“That will drive innovation within businesses and we are already providing maximum support,” the Scottish Government spokesman told eWEEK Europe. “We fund the Carbon Trust to provide advice and practical support to business, helping them to take action, which will not only reduce their emissions, but save money on their energy bills, and we have extended our interest free loan scheme for energy efficiency and small scale renewables for small businesses.”

Niven welcomed the government’s efforts to press ahead with the green agenda, but added: “What is worrying in that this message doesn’t yet seem to have filtered through to Scottish businesses. [They] need to stop simply paying lip service to green IT and actually start practicing what they preach.”

(Picture: Freefoto.com)