Is Dell being paid to be green?

Following from an earlier post around Dell's claims this week that it had achieved 80 PLUS Gold power supply certification for a server product, I...
Written by Andrew Donoghue, Contributor

Following from an earlier post around Dell's claims this week that it had achieved 80 PLUS Gold power supply certification for a server product, I have done a bit more digging (well, reading really)

After learning on the 80 PLUS web site, that the efficiency certification organisation has provided around $5m of incentives to IT companies to help them "transition to 80 PluS certified power supplies", I was slightly confused as to why tech companies – usually not short of a few quid – might require this kind of financial backing.

Anyone who is familiar with the economics of the US power generation market will know the answer right away – but for everyone else, the answer boils down to the fact that US utility companies don't want their customers using any more power.

Yep, that might sound counterintuitive or even counter-capitalist, but the fact is that the massive costs involved in building new power plants in the US means that the utility companies are very concerned about keeping up with demand. The biggest threat to their business model is not failing to find future growth opportunities, like most of other markets, but failing to service existing customers and the power cuts and shortages which would result.

"Our goal is to avoid the capital cost of building new power plants," said Greg Whiting, manager for energy conservation talking to IDG News Service earlier this year. "Encouraging companies to conserve power makes more sense than for us to keep spending to add marginal capacity."

Whiting made the comments at a meeting that took place in San Francisco in March this year where 19 US utility companies met to explore ways of cutting US energy consumption. This IDG article gives an excellent overview of the issue and what was discussed at the conference.

Circling back to the initial release from Dell, I have to say that while any moves to make servers and datacentres more efficient is a good thing, making out as if something that you are more or less paid to do by another company, has been done out of sheer altruism is disingenuous.

Yes, its good that Dell has complied with the 80 PLUS scheme, but it, along with the likes of HP and others, should also be upfront about the fact that power companies are very keen for them to do this – and indeed are giving subsidies to make it happen – and not try and make out that it is done solely to benefit customers or save the planet.

I have approached Dell for comment on whether they actually received any "incentives" from the utility companies behind 80 PLUS and if so how much are we talking but so far I have received much in the way of an answer – apart from this statement which doesn't really say much at all:

"Right now, our focus is passing this value back to the customer through energy-efficient technology and innovation. We’re also exploring ways to drive additional awareness of energy efficiency through customer empowerment and engagement initiatives. Stay tuned."


"We’re committed to designing the world’s most energy-efficient technology, which extends well beyond our participation in this programme. 80 PLUS is a very good yardstick, and helps customers and manufacturers We aren’t releasing specific amounts, but stay tuned for more details about ways we’re working with 80 PLUS to drive value and help customers achieve their environmental goals."

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