Energy savers

“Carbon dioxide is a marker of business inefficiency.” So former vice president and environmentalist Al Gore told a recent IT conference, explaining that any business function that is wasting energy is also one that is wasting money.

But Gore wasn’t simply haranguing the assembled IT professionals to reduce the power consumption of their servers, PCs and mobile devices. Instead, he argued that information technology plays a pivotal role in reducing the overall energy efficiency of businesses as a whole.

This reflects a growing recognition that, while information technology is undoubtedly a significant energy consumer and by no means an efficient one, there are a number of ways in which it can be used to remove the inefficiency from all manner of business processes.

In some cases, simply providing information on energy consumption is enough to radically improve energy efficiency – many organisations today are simply unaware of how much they consume. But more advanced examples use automation and analysis to keep electricity usage to a minimum.

Seven examples of this field of technology in action are profiled in the following pages. Some, like online billing and collaboration portals, will be familiar to a traditional IT audience but others, such as smart water meters and temperature control systems, fall outside what might ordinarily be considered the IT department’s scope, even though information is integral to the functionality of each system.

According to Chris Ingle, a research director at IT market analyst IDC, there is a danger that such technologies might fall between the departmental divisions that define any large organisation. “There is a whole group of technologies that nobody is really looking at because they don’t fit into the traditional IT remit, while business units lack the knowledge to evaluate them,” he says.

Also, as reflected by the variety of technologies presented here, the emerging field of efficiency management systems is disparate and irregular. “There’s no single supplier where you can buy all of these things,” says Ingle.

But such is the reward offered by this field of technology that questions around procurement and supplier strategy will simply have to be overcome, he adds. “They have the potential to deliver real savings, and massive efficiency gains.”

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