Irrespective of whether you are a believer or skeptical that greenhouse emissions contribute to global warming and climate change, the Federal Australian government has enacted the regulation of energy consumption and greenhouse emissions by organizations to reduce greenhouse emissions. As a consequence, the national greenhouse and energy reporting scheme (Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Taskforce, 2008) and emissions trading scheme (Wong, 2008) are being put in place and legislation and compliance will be phased in a relatively short timeframe. Similar legislation has been enacted in most of the OECD countries. These legislations will impact on businesses and individuals directly and indirectly as organizations will need to report their carbon emissions and will have the opportunity to trade carbon credits and debits to offset their carbon emission levels (Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand, 2007). Ultimately the costs associated with greenhouse emissions, reporting and trading will be passed on to the consumer and general public. This situation presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses. The Information Technology (IT) industry has a critical role to play in ensuring a reduction in energy consumption of corporate and particularly office computing where thousands of PCs and laptops are deployed currently without much thought given to energy consumption and recycling or disposal.
PCs contribute 40 percent to total IT greenhouse gas emissions attributed through power consumption. Furthermore the power consumption of servers in data centers has been estimated to be in the order of 23 percent of total power consumption and contribution to total IT greenhouse emissions (Campbell, 2008; Faulkner, 2008). The extent of the problem is much greater than merely inefficient energy usage and power consumption. Recycling laws for the management of hard IT assets exist in only a few countries including Australia (Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand, 2007).
In this research we focus on the power consumption of office computing (PCs and Laptops). This is currently the major contributor to total IT energy consumption and greenhouse emissions and an area where significant improvements in the energy efficiency of PCs can reduce total power consumption and greenhouse emissions drastically. In particular, we focus on how two specific energy efficient technologies, (1) smart power blocks and (2) instant-on systems, can significantly reduce power consumption and contribution to greenhouse emissions of office computing. In this research we investigate the following research questions:
Research question 1: Why is office computing so energy inefficient?
Research question 2: How can the current energy inefficiency office computing be improved to reduce power consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
In terms of a methodological approach, this is research work in progress and as such this paper is a critical analysis of existing knowledge concerning the technology and behavioural issues which are impacting on current energy inefficiency of office computing. There is a dearth of empirical studies in this area of research and the work which has been done is dated very quickly in an area where the technology is advancing very rapidly. This has provided a strong motivation for this research. Future work will involve the collection of quantitative empirical data in a series of experiments in the use of office computing with the aim of determining how effective energy efficient technologies and changing behaviors are in reducing power consumption.
In this paper first we provide an overview of the recent legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions the carbon footprint of businesses which is driving the greening of IT. Then we discuss the current situation in office computing highlighting that power consumption of PCs and Laptops is a major contribution to the total power consumption of IT in an organization. Next we provide an overview of the current technologies that exist to reduce the power consumption of office computing and introduce two promising energy efficient technologies for significantly reducing power consumption of office computing--smart power blocks and instant-on systems. Then we provide a critical evaluation of smart power blocks and instant-on systems in terms of to the extent these technologies can reduce power consumption in office computing and to determine the fit of these technologies with current work practices. Finally we present our conclusions about these technologies and their potential to significantly reduce power consumption in office computing and make some suggestions for future work in this area.
Recent Climate Change Legislation Driving Greening of IT
Climate change has caught the attention of governments and business as there is compelling evidence that greenhouse emissions are resulting in global warming and changes in traditional weather patterns (Faulkner, 2008). Indeed landmark presentations and reports by Al Gore and Sir Nicholas Stern have galvanized world opinion that climate change is a result of greenhouse emissions and that these have an economic and social cost (Gore, 2006; Stern, 2007). Climate change as a result of rising greenhouse emissions will have significant economic and social implications on a global scale and as such has forced governments to act rapidly. In response governments have enacted legislation on a global scale requiring organizations to be accountable for their energy consumption and greenhouse emissions and carbon footprint (for want of a better term) on the environment. In Australia two specific schemes have become or will become legislation by end of 2009 (Wong, 2008): (1) the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Taskforce, 2008) and (2) the Emissions Trading Scheme. As a consequence organizations directly or indirectly will need to proactively reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse emissions. Furthermore they will need to provide hard evidence through reporting mechanisms that they are meeting targets set by the government for reductions in greenhouse emissions. Organizations in industries which are heavy emitters will be able to offset their greenhouse emissions through an emission trading scheme. This recent legislation on energy consumption and greenhouse emissions and mandated reduction in greenhouse emissions are key drivers for Green IT. Currently Information Communications Technology (ICT) accounts for about 2% of total greenhouse emissions worldwide and this will increase substantially over the next 10-15 years as the adoption of ICT increases exponentially in developing countries (The Climate Group, 2008). However the rapid growth in the contribution of ICT to greenhouse emissions worldwide is offset by significant opportunities for ICT to dramatically improve the energy efficiency and consumption of power resulting in significant …