The Need to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Reduce Carbon EmissionsThe need to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions is now well recognised – for sound business reasons as much as concern for the environment. What is at issue is how an organisation can start that journey, where they will find the fastest gains, where they will win the biggest rewards, and how an overall strategy can be developed.

So far, many organisations have concentrated on the efficiency of their data centres, where savings of up to a third in power consumption have been common. With their ventilation, cooling, and lighting systems, these are often the largest single element of electrical use in an organisation’s ICT estate – but this study reveals that it is the distributed IT environment which, taken together, often consumes more electricity and produces more emissions.

Research suggests that the combined energy consumption of desktop computers, laptops, printers, LANs, copiers, and other office equipment may represent between 45% and 92% of the total consumption of the total IT estate.

Can you afford to ignore the potential savings in such a crucial area? Measuring, monitoring, and ultimately reducing the energy consumption of these diverse end-user devices and the various items of IT equipment found outside the data centre has to be an important part of any overall energy-reduction strategy.

Questions for consideration include: How does the choice of IT architecture affect the total energy consumed? What are the impacts of alternative software architectures? How does user behaviour affect the equation? Are the design and construction of application systems likely to have a significant effect on their energy efficiency?

And once systems are in place, what can be done to improve their energy performance?

Part of the solution, part of the problem ...
Across the world, business is recognising information technology as the key to energy savings – a recent analysis by McKinsey suggested that by 2020, IT could be helping to eliminate 7.8 metric gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. That is equivalent to around 15% of today’s global emissions.

But there is another side to the equation.
It is generally agreed that in developed economies, the power consumed by information and communications technologies is responsible for the creation of around 2% of emissions – and research carried out in the UK suggests that actual carbon emissions of the entire Information Systems estate could be more than twice that.  And the significance of IT-related emissions is much bigger than even that figure suggests: recent work with public and private sector service organisations suggests that for some organisations in an office environment, where information technology plays a major role, more than half of the energy consumed could be going on Information Systems equipment.

So IT and computer systems are not only part of the solution – they are part of the problem as well. But one of the key messages of the Energy Efficiency Study is that it may sometimes be necessary to achieve overall savings by actually increasing the carbon footprint of the ICT estate. Organisations can use their ICT systems to drive down carbon emissions across the enterprise.