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Greening IT

12 November 2008

With many companies now vigorously pursuing green agendas, there is potential for 'greening' a wide range of business activities. Even among power hungry workplace IT both hardware and software initiatives emerging to achieve organisations' Carbon Reduction Commitment

IN JANUARY 2010, THE CARBON REDUCTION COMMITMENT (CRC), the mandatory emissions trading scheme designed to encourage large nonenergy intensive business and public sector organisations in the UK to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions comes into effect. Qualifying organisations (banks, retailers, technology companies, schools and hospitals with an annual electricity consumption of over 6,000MW/h) will have to participate in the CRC. Participation involves purchasing and surrendering allowances issued by the Government to cover the company’s annual carbon dioxide emissions from all energy sources.

The CRC is one of the mechanisms the Government has proposed to help it achieve its overall target to reduce carbon emissions by 1.2m tonnes of carbon per year until 2020. The Carbon Trust has calculated wasted energy this year from not implementing cost-effective energy saving measures will cost business around £2.5bn, equivalent to 20m tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The CRC legislation applies to all companies in the UK who use 6,000MW/h or more of half- hourly registered electricity per annum. Those whose annual consumption (as recorded by the current online metering system) exceeds 6,000MW/h will receive a registration pack from the Environment Agency (who administers the CRC) in early 2009 requiring them to register sites and consumption data with the Government.

This data will refer to all carbon data (electricity, gas, oil, coal etc.) to enable full carbon assessment. Reporting and compliance will be aimed at the parent company within organisations, to ensure the total group of UK companies and locations are included. Most companies currently with carbon dioxide emissions covered under EU-ETS or Climate Change Agreement (CCA) legislation will be exempt from CRC reporting requirements. The CRC will come into effect from 1 January 2010, but whether an organisation is subject to the scheme will be determined through its 2008 electricity consumption.

Non-participation in the CRC will be a criminal offence. There will be two types of offences: failing to participate and failing to register or surrender allowances. The offences will be punishable by penalty or fine, currently set to be £25 per carbon dioxide tonne for the first phase rising to £70 for future phases.

There are many energy-conserving solutions in the market, based around IT issues, two examples being Powerdesk which follows a hardware route, and Useful which promotes a software option.

Powerdesk offers Freemote, which allows staff to turn office PCs on and off at the touch of a button. Having the controls in the desktop is claimed to make it easy for all staff to shut their PC down when they leave the office. A study by Symantec calculated that using Freemote to switch off an office PC every evening and weekend saves 1,152 units of electricity per person per year. Symantec also performed tests to measure the energy usage of a PC when unattended, and found that two PCs left on standby during out-of-work hours produce over one tonne of carbon per year.

Secure switch OFF
Due to the Freemote safe shut-down process any employee, manager, security guard or even cleaner can switch any PC off, knowing that all the work will be saved. Freemote requires no extra electricity as it draws its power from the PC, supplying its benefits at no environmental cost. Powerdesk asks whether, with the development of USB-powered everyday items, mobile phones, iPods, there is a need for traditional three-pin plug extensions on desks drawing chargeable power when Freemote provides USB ports at no extra electricity charge?

Freemote typically creates 20 percent more usable space than the usual desk with a PC positioned below the work surface, by repositioning the 250mm-300mm wide PC case into areas of the desk or floor plate that are not used in daily working.

The heat generated by a room full of PCs is significant, meaning that energy-draining devices like air-conditioning need to be used to keep the room at a pleasant temperature. With Freemote, the PCs can be located up to 10m away, meaning PCs could be stored in a nearby area, which can be separately vented as needed. “This will allow less interference with adjacent workers during IT team work or upgrade to equipment and the reduction of the need for powered floor boxes for every desk,” says Simon Vernon, Powerdesk’s UK sales director. “We want to become the technical hub of the workplace.”

Many organisations are undertaking trials with Freemote. To bolster FMs’ green credentials, Freemote offers improved ergonomics (eg. access to all PC controls); reduction in heat and magnetic field build up; security of IT (eg. ability to securely lock the PC within the void area of a desk, controlled access to IT assets); and VoIP headphone port which facilitates the use of VoIP/software phone systems by users connecting headsets directly.

Meanwhile, in Canada, Calgary-based software company Userful has helped its customers cut global carbon dioxide emissions by over 29,000 tonnes over the last 12 months (environmentally equivalent to taking 5,000 cars off the road), is preparing to ramp-up sales of it's ecologically-friendly software that’s already revolutionised 30,000 public and private desktops worldwide, says Tim Griffin, president of Userful Corp

Userful is a web-service that lets users multiply and manage their desktop computers. They can multiply their hardware investment, creating up to 10 independent workstations from one computer by attaching multiple monitors, mice and keyboards. “This reduces demand for electricity and cuts hardware waste by up to 80 percent,” says Griffin. “Organisations typically save over 50 percent on their desktop computing costs.”

Reducing the number of computers in use has additional earth-friendly benefits. Electronic waste is an increasing problem globally due to the fast obsolescence of electronics, compounded by the fact that computer waste is high in many toxic materials such as heavy metals and flame-retardant plastics, which easily leach into ground water and bio-accumulate. “Using Userful products can reduce electronic waste by up to 80 percent, further decreasing its environmental footprint,” Griffin suggests.

One DVD installs everything required from the operating system and application software to security, desktop control and automated record-keeping. Users have access to 40+ applications in 30+ languages in an intuitive interface. Security safeguards are built in, rendering desktops unbreakable and hacker-proof. It's not Windows, so there are no viruses, spy-ware, etc. Updates and patches are automatically uploaded to the managed desktops over the Internet, meaning users don’t have to worry about having the most recent versions of the applications (and they're always free).

For budget-conscious IT staff, customers report dramatic savings, such as reducing total computing costs by an average 54 percent, saving IT staff and administrator time by up to 80 percent, fewer software packages and PCs means lower up-front costs, and time saved in integrating and managing desktops means lower ongoing costs.


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