Green IT – Not just “nice to do”.

News this week from the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) – “the impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible”. After a winter in the UK that has seen major storms and rainfall we can expect more incidents of severe weather as we go forward.

Worldwide, the carbon footprint of IT is actually larger than that of the airline industry – and it’s growing. As more and more of the developing world adopt information technology, the carbon emissions generated will increase with it.

There was political news too. Centrica warned that government policy would likely lead to energy shortages in the UK and electrical black-outs. Strangely, this isn’t new. In 2012 the government forecasted a 20% shortfall in electricity forecast for the years 2015-2017. This, they said, was due to a number of factors that would create “a perfect storm”.

  • Dirty, coal powered power stations that fail to meet agreed emission targets must close by 2015.
  • Existing Magnox nuclear power stations are reaching the end of their life.
  • Wind, renewables and AGR nuclear plants will not cover the shortfall.
  • Reduced demand due to the recession has delayed the build of new capacity. Even if the building programme is restarted, it is unlikely that any new plants will be online before 2017.

Whatever way you look at it, we must all do whatever we can to reduce our energy usage.

Data Centres continue to grow exponentially and even though the latest servers are more energy efficient, the number deployed is ever-rising as too is the number of desk-top and mobile devices.

In these circumstances is it not incredible that few IT Managers are held accountable for the energy cost of the IT deployed to support the business. Sure, they have initiated hardware rationalisation projects but the outcomes of these projects are measured in cost savings not energy savings.

We must push ‘Green IT’ higher up the strategic agenda. The government has done much to “Green” governmental ICT. The Greening Government ICT strategy is intended to minimise the impact of the UK Government on the environment and reduce both green-house gas emissions and waste in support of the Government’s commitment to achieve a 25% reduction in green-house emissions by 2015.

It’s time IT Manager’s followed this lead and set their own targets for energy reduction and carbon emissions. Highly principled, reputable companies like Unilever do this. Let us all follow suit.

Stuart Sawle


1 thought on “Green IT – Not just “nice to do”.

  1. Very thought-provoking Stuart, especially in a week where it feels like government agencies have finally decided to face up to – and tell – the truth about climate change. I agree that IT managers need to set targets for reducing energy consumption but this needs to be matched by a commitment on the part of the business as a whole to do the millions of little things that could make a difference.

    I’m tired of being the first one in each day and looking at external monitors that were unplugged in a hurry at the end of the previous day instead of being switched off. And, do people really need a new business laptop every 2 or 3 years? Let’s get off the constant upgrade carousel and stick with a hardware and software platform that is tried and tested. At home I have a “seasoned” IBM laptop with a 2.3 GHz dual-core chip running XP Professional. It starts up faster than the Dell running Windows 7 Professional that I use at work and seems to run as cool. Unless I install lots of silly software (which I sometimes do), it rarely falls over. In a commercial environment, that laptop would have been “refreshed” at least twice by now and I can’t believe that even the most efficient new laptops could offset that level of waste. The thrill of the new can be short-lived…

    Whether it’s down to supply contracts or accounting practices, something seems fundamentally flawed here. I used to see signs in one office I worked in reminding people that “security is everyone’s business” – I believe that using IT properly is “everyone’s business” too.

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