"Green IT": Save Power, Save Money

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is asking CIOs to do something Jimmy Carter couldn’t convince consumers to do in the 1970s: curb their energy consumption. No, EPA head Christie Todd Whitman isn’t going to don a cardigan and ask CIOs to turn off their extra computers. Instead, the agency is campaigning to get CIOs to save energy and is offering free software that’ll make doing so a cinch.

Monitors and computers represent 1 percent of the country’s electricity use, according to the EPA, but about half of that output is wasted by computers and monitors that are left on overnight or that don’t use the sleep mode feature. Research by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in Berkeley, Calif., reveals that about 70 percent of monitors and 55 percent of computers used by U.S. businesses and government offices are left humming after hours, and that sleep mode has been disabled or is not functioning on 40 percent of monitors and 75 percent of computers. Steve Ryan, the EPA’s Energy Star Project manager, explains that because sleep mode can inadvertently disconnect computers from networks, CIO-types often turn it off, and he suspects some computer manufacturers do so as well to appease customers.

The EPA has posted free software at www.energystar.gov that lets administrators activate sleep mode on all of a network’s monitors in one fell swoop. The agency is focusing on monitors, says Bruce Nordman, a principal research associate at LBNL, for two reasons: Sleep mode does not affect network operations when used on monitors, and it saves more energy when used on monitors than computers?approximately 85 watts per hour compared with about 20 watts per hour.

"The network [can] run smoothly and operate properly while improving [the organization’s] bottom line," says Ryan. The EPA’s suggested practices can save 380,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year for every 1,000 computers, or roughly $38,000, he says. That $38,000 may not get you far, but it’s a lot better than losing money?Palo Alto, Calif.-based Electrical Power Research Institute estimates California businesses lost $1.7 billion because of last winter’s demand-induced blackouts.

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