According to figures released by the UK Department of Trade and Industry, PCs use nearly seven terawatt hours of electricity a year, and by 2020 this figure could rise to over 10 terawatt hours. With rising energy prices now affecting every sector of industry, any reduction in energy use clearly makes good business sense, and so ‘green IT’ should be a topic of discussion for all senior executives.
To put the above figures into perspective, Luxembourg’s electricity consumption in 2005 was around six terawatt hours. According to GEM, an independent source of information relating to green tariffs, a large office block housing 1,250 employees is likely to consume around 2.5 gigawatt hours annually, at a cost of approximately GBP134,000.
The Carbon Trust, a non-profit organization funded by the UK government, estimates that office equipment now accounts for around 15% of total energy use in the UK, and that this figure is likely to rise to 30% by 2020, unless businesses act now.
PC monitors and system units account for around two-thirds of office energy consumption, while photocopiers and printers consume around 25% of the total. These figures are based on an office with 10 PCs, a photocopier, a fax machine and a laser printer, and so, with larger organizations typically having much higher ratios of PC equipment to printers and photocopiers, clearly this is where management needs to focus.
Leaving computers, lights, and other office equipment switched on wastes an estimated GBP150 million worth of electricity in English offices every year. A typical desktop PC, with a CRT monitor, will consume around GBP240 worth of electricity over a four-year life span. A laptop, however, will consume only around a quarter of this amount, depending on its specification, and so organizations should consider their equipment purchases carefully.
A good place to start when considering IT purchases is the EU’s Energy Star website (www.eu-energystar.org). The website has a database that lists all of the equipment that meets the Energy Star requirements, and so guarantees a minimum level of energy efficiency. In addition to this, the website also provides guidance on selecting Energy Star PCs and monitors – two of the biggest power drains in the office.
The Energy Star logo has been around for many years, and so one would have thought that the IT industry has its ‘green house’ well in order. However, environmental group Greenpeace doesn’t think so, and so has published a report naming and shaming leading suppliers of mobile and PC equipment, based on their global policies and practice on eliminating harmful chemicals, and on taking responsibility for their products once they have been discarded by consumers. Top of the PC manufacturer’s list came Dell, with Lenovo being the worst of all companies ranked.
Evidence suggests that the Reduction Of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) law, and the European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive are finally forcing IT equipment manufacturers to get their collective acts together, but are end-user organizations doing their bit? Well, if they aren’t now they soon will be, as environmental levies and ‘green taxes’ are here to stay, and look set to rise year-on-year for the foreseeable future. ‘Green IT’ is no longer an option: it’s a necessity.
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)