First session this morning on Green IT from Rob Bristow from JISC. A useful overview of the problem, as well as some suggestions for reducing our carbon footprint. Some interesting facts and figures - in HE and FE in the UK there are 760,000 PCs and 215,000 servers consuming 512Mwh of electricity and producing 275,000 tonnes of CO2 at a cost of c£116m. Worldwide, IT accounts for c2% of emissions - often referred to as the same as the airline industry, but this is not a good comparison as that applies only to the planes and doesn't take into account things like the running of the airports.
A typical PC generates 66kg of waste and produces 1tonne of CO2 throughout its life. Suggestions for reducing footprint of PCs are well know to us - automatic power down using wake-on-LAN if necessary, procuring low energy PCs and extending their life wherever possible. Also, the case for thin client needs to be carefully assessed. There's a good toolkit on the JISC SusteIT site for comparing the costs of thin client and traditonal thick client desktops.
Then there's the data centres - described as big hungry beasts - which consume 1% of the world's energy globally. And demand for them is growing as demand for processing power and storage increases. Rob used the often quoted statement that a heavy user of Second Life consumes more power than a Brazilian (the nationality, not the wax I assume....). Not sure how real that is, but it did prompt a Second Life user to point out that they also generated savings in that they didn't get out that often! Lots of things we can do to make our data centes greener - well documented so I'm not going into them all here but they include hot and cold aisles, better colling management, power efficiency, reusing waste heat and virtualisation. There was also a suggestion that we should run our data centres hotter as limits have increased.
Of course, my favourite topic, printing, got a good mention. Staff printing is out of control said Rob - and how I agree! The HE sector consumes over 21,000 tonnes of paper a year and printing accounts for c12% of ICT related energy use - most of the energy associated with printing comes from making the paper. Interesting that most of his suggestions for reducing printing were the same as the recommendations from our environmental printing review.
Sheffield University was one of the case studies in looking at the carbon footprint of HE IT use, and Rob showed some of the figures that came out of that study, and some of the findings which suggested priority areas for action - PCS and servers, then networks and printing.
The final point was that the reduction of energy use and carbon footprint must be part of strategic planning and not carried out in isolation.