The Energy Inefficiency of Office Computing and Potential Emerging Technology Solutions

Article excerpt

Introduction

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. …