IT related energy consumption

What impact is our increasing use of IT having in terms of CO2 emissions and global warming? IT accounts for 10 – 30 per cent of an organisation’s energy costs. This figure is expected to rise to closer to 50 per cent over the next few years as the kilowatt usage of a server rack is expected to rise from 5KW to 10KW+.  
Simplistically, organisations can turn off desktop monitors and other idle computer equipment at the end of the day and at other times when not in use.  However, far more impact can be achieved by consolidation, virtualisation and retirement of redundant technology.
Effective processes
Further to this, effective processes are required to ensure that, once implemented, the measures taken and the lowered carbon footprint subsequently achieved can be sustained.
While these activities undoubtedly will help towards hitting targeted reductions, there are three steps that need to be followed to ensure that enough information is available to make the appropriate decisions and ensure that any reductions achieved are sustainable:

  • Energy consumption assessment to accurately determine the current carbon footprint (Baseline)
  • Identification of hot-spots in terms of energy consumption and associated CO2 emissions (Target)
  • Optimisation of energy efficiency and, thus, reduction of CO2 emissions and reduction o other GHG emissions contributed from production processes (Action).

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL©) is a framework that promotes best practice processes within the IT environment. Use of the framework and enhancement of ITIL©-based best practice processes will provide a clear understanding of the current IT environment.
A view of existing energy consumption, under-utilised services and ways in which the IT infrastructure could be optimised will be provided – and can become part of an overall approach to carbon footprint reduction and continued future improvements/reductions.
How to go about applying ITIL© best practice to achieve lower CO2 emissions:

Baseline Stage
By first performing a maturity assessment of the current IT process environment, it is possible to identify the status and maturity of the key ITIL processes that will drive the knowledge acquisition, eg:

  • Configuration Management: to identify the number of IT components, by manufacturer, model peripherals, energy ratings, etc. Without this it will be impossible to make any decisions related to reducing energy consumption.
  • Financial Management: to identify original purchase costs, depreciation of the equipment plus any leasing and maintenance costs. The figures will help with the cost benefit for any proposed reduction or replacement to meet carbon targets. Costs models may be developed down to business unit level which can help shape IT service buying patterns.
  • Capacity Management: to make decisions around the reduction/consolidation of PCs, servers, SANs, etc. to achieve usage reductions.

Process and data improvements can then be addressed to reach a point where there is enough information available to be able to calculate and analyse power consumption and CO2 emissions, using any of the energy emission calculators readily available from the Internet.

Target Stage
Once the output from the energy emissions calculator is available it can be used to report on the overall energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
This provides the management information required to identify hot spots, high energy use and equipment which emits large levels of CO2.  This will support strategic decisions about actions that need to be taken in terms of replacement of equipment, consolidation, virtualisation, shared services and retirement of under-utilised or redundant components.
The emissions reduction plan is then developed, outlining the actions and activities that need to be undertaken, with priorities and inter-dependencies.

Action Stage
This is the programme of actions to be taken, as defined by the information gathered and assessed in the earlier steps.
To be successful this programme will require:

  • Full sponsorship and stakeholder buy-in
  • A cost benefit assessment
  • Alignment with the business/strategic plan to determine measures for success
  • Links to corporate responsibility, stakeholder communications plans and marketing
  • Effective programme management
  • Best practice processes to support the programme and ensure on-going control.

As well as reduced CO2 emissions, the action/optimisation stage will deliver reduced costs of IT components, reduced cost of service to clients, rigorous control of assets and enhanced brand image leading to marketing opportunities.
Process improvements made throughout will ensure control of IT components is maintained and on-going CO2 emissions and reduction targets can be measured, monitored and maintained.

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