Power management in the public sector

Written by Richard Clarke, head of public sector at 1EWith spending cuts anticipated across the whole public sector over the next few financial years, coupled with central government demanding ‘more for less’, all public sector organisations urgently need to assess areas where wastage can be reduced in order to minimise the impact of these cuts on their frontline operations.

Challenge I
It is vital that all opportunities to deliver greater value for money within the public sector are explored. With public debt reaching gargantuan proportions, it is important that the government takes steps, not only to improve efficiency in the public sector, but also to account more clearly and accurately for the savings it is making. In the face of ongoing job losses in the private sector, the public sector must consider more radical solutions to reducing its burden on the taxpayer1.
In April 2009, The Operational Efficiency Programme (OEP), a year long programme examining operational spending in the public sector, was published. This report concluded that the adoption of best practices across the public sector (i.e. collection of accurate management information, benchmarking and applying private sector cost efficiency experience) would lead to cost savings of around 25 to 30 per cent. Applying this savings figure to the £15 billion spent on back office operations gives a potential savings figure of £3.75 to 4.5 billion2. Therefore, all departments and departmental heads, including IT, in the public sector are responsible for ensuring that, during times of constrained public spending, they are enabling best practices and delivering tangible cost saving across their entire organisation.
The results of the last major efficiency initiatives by the government across the public sector (the Gershon Report & CSR07) yielded more than a 20 per cent over-achievement of the targets set; so while it is clear that there is scope to go further and increase the value for money the public sector achieves, it is important that public sector organisations identify the biggest areas for potential savings without comprising their ability to deliver their frontline services. At 1E, we believe that the best ‘quick win’ for public sector organisations to undertake to address the combined challenge of reducing both operational costs & carbon footprint, is to negate the unnecessary wastage caused by PCs and servers.

Challenge II
When you combine the spending restraints with the prospect of a global carbon emissions reduction directive, the case for eliminating energy waste is all the more compelling. The COP15 climate change summit talks are currently drawing to a close in Copenhagen so it will be exciting to see what new challenges that brings with it. Copenhagen aside, the UK government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme comes into force in April 2010, a mere three months away. While it is not too late to meet the April deadline for the 5,000-20,000 public and private organisations that the government has identified must comply with the directive (based on their half hourly electricity usage measured in 2008), action must be taken now. The incentives are clear; organisations that exceed the government-set carbon emissions levels will be forced to buy additional carbon credits on the open market which could prove very costly, whilst the best performers will stand to gain financially not only in terms of a rebate on their carbon credits but also by being able to sell any excess credits purchased to those underachievers.
Over and above actual individual performance, CRC establishes a requirement to be able to accurately report against organisational carbon footprint. For those that chose to ignore or skimp on their reporting methodology, the penalties could be very high beyond just being publicly named and shamed. For instance, CRC allows for only a five per cent margin of error for under reporting of carbon footprint; if this margin of error is exceeded then the participant organisation must purchase and cancel the outstanding balance of allowances plus pay £40/tCO2 in respect of each tonne that should have been reported.

Energy efficient projects
Many public sector organisations have already embarked on energy efficiency projects, however they have started by tackling areas such as printer rationalisation. Whilst projects such as this are commendable, managing the two hungriest consumers of power within ICT (PCs & servers) should be the key priority for 2010. According to Gartner, PCs and servers account for a staggering 62 per cent of total organisational IT power consumption (39 per cent and 23 per cent respectively)3 so the potential to make a positive impact on the bottom line is huge.
When you couple the aforementioned Gartner power consumption statistics with the fact that an estimated average of 52 per cent of PCs are left on unnecessarily at night and over the weekend within the public sector4 and that between 15 per cent of servers are not doing any useful work5,  the challenge is even more enticing.
On the PC side, nearly half of UK workers (48 per cent) who use a PC at their job do not typically shut down at night. The survey also found that most employed adults in the UK (63 per cent) who use a PC at work believe that their companies should be doing more to reduce overall power consumption6. And, with PCs alone being estimated to account for 10 per cent of the total electricity used in offices7, the ability to accurately report on their power consumption (and hence their carbon footprint) is a key component to ensuring compliance with CRC and to avoiding large unnecessary penalties. So, the good news for public sector organisations is that technology solutions can help promote this behavioural change and enforce corporate energy saving policy.
On the server side, in a similar survey to the one carried out on PCs, over two thirds (72 per cent) of server managers polled believed that 15 per cent of the world’s 4.7 million are simply not being utilised productively, but remain powered on 24/7, producing 11.8 million tonnes of CO2 (the same amount produced by 2.1 million cars) and wasting £15bn in hardware, maintenance and management – roughly equal to the cost of the 13 year Apollo space programme8.

1. Treasury Committee - Thirteenth Report of Session 2008-09
2. Operational Efficiency Programme: back office operations and IT, May 2009: www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/oep_back_office_pu730.pdf
3. Gartner Inc. “IT Vendors, Service Providers and Users Can Lighten IT’s Environmental Footprint” by Simon Mingay, December 5, 2007
4. Source: ICT Power Management case study, Office of Government Commerce (OGC) - www.ogc.gov.uk/documents/ICT_Power.pdf
5. 1E/Alliance to Save Energy Server Energy & Efficiency Survey, conducted by Kelton Research in September 2009
6.1E/Alliance to Save Energy PC Power Management Study, conducted by Harris Interactive in August 2009
7. Carbon Trust, Technology Overview, Office Equipment – Introducing energy saving opportunities for business  
8. 1E/Alliance to Save Energy Server Energy & Efficiency Survey, conducted by Kelton Research in September 2009

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