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Small actions matter - but so does company innovation

06 August 2008
Small actions matter - but so does company innovation

By Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group.

In today's NY Times article, An Energy Diet for Power-Hungry Household PCs, Gartner IT analysts are quoted as saying that "40 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions resulting from information technology and telecommunications are attributable to PCs".

Our numbers from the SMART 2020 report are similar. We find that in 2007, 41% of the direct footprint of ICTs (Telecoms infrastructure and devices, data centers, and PCs, peripherals and printers) is attributed to PCs. In 2020, this number is expected to be 45% under business as usual growth, although largely from laptops (laptops will be 22% of the global ICT footprint - desktops with CRT monitors will be phased out).

What the NY Times article suggests is that PC power management tools can allow the PC to consume just 5% of its usual draw. For our figures, we included some power management implementation (32%) in the baseline calculations out to 2020. We defined power management as a system that monitors and controls the activity levels of the individual PC hardware components such as the processor, battery, AC adapter, fan, monitor and hard disk. Examples include ACPI and Verdiem's Surveyor software, which also sells Edison.

I've also tried 'Local Cooling' and Carbon Control Software which allows your company to create policies across the organisation for managing PC power consumption. They've also implemented 'carbon earth' a way to put your individual PC on google maps to see where others are using the same power management software.

Power management is a crucial step on the way to more efficient and green IT. But it isn't the whole story. As our numbers show, even with power management reducing consumption of energy by up to 32%, the sheer growth in numbers of laptops that will be demanded means that the ICT footprint is doubling by 2020 (one in 10 people in China today own a laptop, that could grow to US levels of ownership, or seven in 10 by 2020).

We will need radical transformation in 'form factor' or the type of devices we use, similar to the shift from desktops to laptops, if we hope to reduce the growth in emissions from PCs and laptops. Convergence is much discussed, but we tend to see a proliferation of devices, and consolidation only among some of the services that can be provided over similar devices. (I know a lot of people who have a blackberry and a mobile phone, for example).

We based our analysis on historic trends. There is a danger in this assumption, as we can never be sure what changes will occur in the fast-moving landscape of ICT. For example, in 2002 there were virtually no IPTV boxes, so how do we know what the next 12 years to 2020 will bring?

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