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Reducing the carbon footprint of your organisation needn’t involve major sacrifices, argues Richard Clarke, public sector sales manager at 1E, on behalf of the Mobile Data AssociationCarbon reduction strategies have been at the top of the public sector agenda for some time now and 2009 will be no different. The government recognises that the public sector is responsible for a significant amount of energy usage and is committed to reducing unnecessary waste and cutting costs.
For many people, they expect this to involve major sacrifices and extra costs such as investing in hybrid vehicles or refitting office buildings but there is one simple initiative that takes virtually no effort and can have an astounding impact on energy consumption and cost control.
As the government recognised in its recent ‘Greening Government ICT’ report, substantial carbon savings can be made by simply ensuring all PCs are switched off overnight and at weekends, while at the same time, organisations can ensure a noticeable reduction in energy bills. As the Minister for Transformational Government, Tom Watson, points out in his introduction to the report: “By turning off just one computer overnight we can save 235kg of CO2 in a year. Over the whole estate the potential is enormous – turning off every one of Whitehall’s 500,000 computers at night would have the same effect as taking 40,000 cars off the road.”
The report also highlights the fact that 15 per cent of energy usage in the public sector is from IT sources (growing to 30 per cent by 2020), two thirds of which is directly attributable to PCs, according to the Carbon Trust. Contrary to common belief, servers and data centres are not the ‘petrol heads’ of IT but rather the trusty PCs that sit on practically everyone’s desk. The question is why do so few workers shut down at the end of the day and how can we encourage them to change their habits.
Power down your PC
According to research conducted by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy, 30 per cent of employed UK adults who use a PC at work don’t typically shut down their PCs at the end of the workday. Under this scenario, if a UK business or public sector organisation with 10,000 computers leaves them on all night for one year, it will cost £174,720 and emit 828 tonnes of CO2.
It was for these reasons that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, collaborating with the Office of Government Commerce, instigated the tender process for the provision of IT power management software in December 2007. Following the completion of the OJEU process, 1E was awarded the pan-government IT Power Management framework contract in May 2008. This framework contract now enables all public bodies to benefit from the pre-negotiated discounted pricing and a streamlined procurement process.
So how can we motivate people to power down their PCs? Although the majority of workers feel their companies should be doing more to reduce their power consumption (67 per cent in the UK), very few people power down their PC because their bosses told them to. Among employed adults who at least sometimes power down their PCs, a mere two per cent in the UK indicated that they do so primarily because their boss told them to.
The problem is compounded by the fact that any organisation-wide initiatives to encourage turning off equipment – e-mail reminders, hard copy memos, directives from senior staff and so on – have an immediate impact but one that rarely lasts beyond a few weeks. Our anecdotal evidence suggests that people find it too easy to slip back into bad habits and with the average PC taking 5-10 minutes to boot up, too many people succumb to the temptation of simply turning off their monitor so they can get up and running instantly the next day.
Time to switch off
Organisations therefore need to look to other ways to ensure that PCs are switched off when not in use. Already, many public sector organisations have begun to roll out solutions that take the onus of the user.
Peterborough City Council is an excellent example of one such organisation – with over 4,500 staff, it was estimated that 30 per cent of PCs were being left on at some point, costing the authority £40–£60 per annum per machine. Educating the user community had been tried and a shut down policy was in place but the perception remained that machines that went into standby mode were powered off. This resulted in significant power still being used by machines left on standby, particularly over weekends.
Peterborough City Council looked at a simple, cost-effective and immediate solution. The 1E software solution NightWatchman® enables the automatic, centralised power management of PCs across the ICT infrastructure, ensuring that any work is saved before shutdown, closing applications safely and securely during patching. The authority quickly achieved its goal of reducing its carbon footprint and providing an example to others to advocate emission savings, including a reduction of £50k on electricity costs and 250 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum.
“I am delighted with the results of this project,” commented Nigel Green, head of ICT at Peterborough City Council. “We set out to achieve a return on investment in six months and achieved our target in less than three months. When added to the carbon emission savings and the better delivery to our in-house customers, this has been one of our best investment decisions.”
His endorsement of the solution was echoed by Alan Vigus, head of ICT Services at Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Foundation Trust, which provides a range of specialist mental health services to nearly 800,000 people from all age ranges across Norfolk and north east Suffolk. The deployment of a 1E solution across the Trust has exceeded the promising results from an earlier trial.
“One third of our PC estate is at a particular hospital, and in a three month period the savings translate into £6.5k per year off our energy bill,” says Alan. “Extend that across the whole trust and we’re looking at minimum annual savings of £20k.”
To date 1E’s power management solutions have been deployed globally on six million PCs across over 1,000 public and private sector organisations. In the UK, central government, healthcare, police forces, education and local government bodies have all deployed NightWatchman and are seeing rapid return on investment as well as reduced carbon emissions.
So it is clear that there are simple, cost-effective ways to begin making significant reductions in energy usage and help meet the raft of targets the government has introduced. By taking the responsibility for energy management away from users, who have proven difficult to encourage, to a centralised, secure network-wide software solution, this profligate waste of energy could soon be a thing of the past.
For more information
For more information on 1E and its suite of energy management solutions, please visit: www.1e.com