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Green IT: Do your math

To effectively lower power consumption, businesses need to measure energy consumption at different stages of a product lifecycle, says HP exec.
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Written by Vivian Yeo on

SINGAPORE--Businesses must adopt a joule-centric mentality as part of their green IT efforts to effectively measure their energy consumption, urge industry players at a seminar on Thursday.

To truly make a difference in reducing energy usage, companies need to measure the total energy consumed over a product's lifecycle, said Chandrakant Patel, Hewlett-Packard Fellow and director for the IT vendor's Sustainable Information Technology Laboratory. The green IT seminar was organized by HP for its customers and partners in Singapore.

Joule, a widely used unit of measurement for energy, should therefore be an important component in a company's eco-friendly initiatives.

The energy consumed at various stages of product development such as production, installation and decommission, need to be considered, said Patel. He added that it is also important to factor the entire supply chain when measuring energy consumption, as the use of different materials would result in different calculations.

More research, however, still needs to be done in this area, Patel noted.

For instance, the energy expended through extracting aluminium--a component typically used to manufacture laptops--during the production process is significant, when compared with the energy expended during the use of the laptop. This finding was determined from measuring an average six hours of daily use, over two years.

In spite of this, Patel said, it may not be practical to replace the metal because aluminium is an ideal component in the production of laptops.

Lee Solsbery, technical director of climate consultancy Environmental Resources Management, related a study conducted for British grocer Tesco. It found that for each 500-gram pack of minced beef, the production and transport phase contributed nearly 70 percent of total energy consumption. In comparison, process and packaging contributed some 20 percent, while retail and use made up 10 percent of total energy consumption.

Based on further findings, Solsbery said the study determined that adjustments made in the type of fertilizers used on the grass--on which the cattle graze--could reduce the energy expended.

He added that some common efforts to be eco-friendly such as recycling and waste management, do not necessarily equate to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

"[The key is whether] you de-carbonized your energy use?" he questioned.

Solsbery added that adopting joule-centric metrics in measuring carbon footprint, as well as the progress made in reducing energy consumption, will provide a more complete picture of a company's total impact on the climate.

One major environmental concern today is the escalating carbon dioxide emissions from data centers.

HP's Patel pointed out that data centers today consume too much energy due to a lack of intelligent control.

"Our biggest problem today is [that] we are grossly over-provisioned," he said, noting that cooling systems are always running at high-speed and built to only be turned on or off.

He added that there is a need to provide cooling capabilities based on need, and to enable running machines to be scaled according to the tasks required.

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