Wednesday, August 03, 2011

UK businesses are no more energy aware in their PC use than five years ago

UK businesses are wasting about £30.8 million a day by leaving their PC equipment on standby, according to new research from energy company E.ON – which, depressingly, establishes that nothing has changed in five years despite the huge amount of advice and support available.

E-ON, which itself offers energy efficiency advice, including online management tools for its business customers, says that more than one third of UK small businesses fail to power down computers at the close of day, and one in five only do so fully at the weekend.

It costs 1p per hour on average to keep a PC on standby, a seemingly insignificant sum, but one which can add up.

"10% of small business owners wrongly assume that leaving computers on standby at night uses the same amount of energy as shutting them down completely,” said Iain Walker, Head of Business Sales at E.ON.

“Introducing small changes into the culture of your business, like turning equipment off fully at night, can have a significant financial impact on your energy bills.”

The research suggests that there has not been much improvement in energy awareness in the last five years, since a similar survey was conducted by the National Energy Foundation.

This asked the same question of a representative sample of the general public's behaviour at work in 2006 and found more or less the same result: that as many as one-sixth of work computers are never switched off at night or weekends, with a further seventh not switched off on some days each week.

There is simple software available to automatically manage the power consumed by PCs or power down networked PCs centrally.

The NEF suggested that using this could save up to 1.5TWh (1.5 billion kWh) per year, with a value around £115 million, and 700,000 tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to almost 0.2MtC).

The question is – why has no one paid any attention to this information?

E.ON's research shows the retail sector includes the biggest culprits, with over two-thirds admitting that they do not switch off work computers at night. Even more worrying is that 59% only do so at the weekend, meaning that they stay on all week.

The farming sector contains the best performers, with 69% shutting down every night.

There are regional variations: small businesses in the North were found to waste the most money and energy, with 23% of small businesses in Yorkshire and 21% of small businesses in the North East believing that leaving computers on standby uses the same amount of energy as switching them off.

Those in the South were most energy aware, with only 4% from the South East, and 5% from London, believing the same thing.

It suggests that the Carbon Trust ought to target its work more in the worst-performing regions.

It also suggests that PCs should be shipped with a default setting that shuts them down automatically if not used for a couple of hours or so, which has to be disabled by the user - rather than the other way round, as it is at the moment.

As with the phasing out of incandescent lightbulbs, removing the choice to be inefficient from users without compromising the service they get, saves busy people from having to think about these things.

Efficiency help for businesses and data centre operators

In a related field, further new research from Analytics Press shows that the energy usage of data centres worldwide is increasing, but the rate of increase is slowing - at least up to 2010.

The total global electricity use by data centres in 2010 was about 1.3% of all electricity use for the world, and 2% of that for the US.

It increased by about 56% from 2005 to 2010 (instead of doubling as it did from 2000 to 2005), while in the US it increased by about 36% instead of doubling.

While Google is a high profile user of computer servers, less than 1% of electricity used by data centres worldwide was attributable to that company’s data centre operations.

Part of the eason for the slowdown in the rate of increase may be that there is now an increasing number of green data centres that are powered by renewable electricity or employ efficiency measures.

One pioneer in this area is Interxion, whose engineer, Ali Moinuddin, is co-chair of The Green Grid’s European Communications Committee and helps to spread awareness of advanced energy efficiency in data centres and the broader impact of business computing amongst the European community.

The Green Grid is a nonprofit network aiming to improve the resource efficiency of data centres and the general business computing ecosystem.

Many of Interxion's data centres now use 100% renewable energy as well as free cooling as standard and have cold aisle containment as a mandatory configuration.

Commenting on the research, he offered the following advice, not just for data centre managers but for all companies: "The Green Grid has developed the Data Center Maturity Model (DCMM), which provides clear goals and direction for improving energy efficiency and sustainability across all aspects of the data centre as well as clear metrics and guidance on what all organisations need to address within the whole ICT infrastructure in order to be more sustainable".

It allows users to benchmark their current performance, determine their levels of accomplishment, and identify the ongoing steps and innovations necessary to achieve greater energy efficiency and sustainability.

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