Agencies improve energy efficiency, but recession could cool efforts, survey finds

Federal information technology managers could save $9.1 million annually by taking advantage of energy-saving opportunities, although budget pressures could be slowing energy conservation efforts, according to a survey conducted by CDW Government.

The managers surveyed are adopting more energy-saving measures, including buying Energy Star-rated devices, making full use of power management tools, and taking steps to virtualize servers and storage.

The survey found that organizations are doing more to improve energy efficiency in IT compared with 2008, and as a result, they are realizing significant savings in their energy bills. However, CDW-G also found that energy efficiency became less of a consideration in IT purchase decisions year-over-year, indicating recessionary pressures to reduce equipment costs, even at the expense of greater, longer-term energy savings.

IT executives are caught between a rock and hard place, said Mark Gambill, a vice president at CDW, the parent company of CDW-G. “Under extreme budget pressure in a recessionary economy, their No. 1 IT purchasing concern is the current cost of equipment and services, which can put a damper on efforts toward lowering total cost of operations,” Gambill said.

“While IT executives are trying to do the right thing — buy the best technology with the right capabilities at the best price — some may sacrifice greater long-term savings from reduced energy use by downgrading the importance of energy efficiency in the purchase equation.”

The 2009 Energy Efficient IT Report is based on a July survey of 752 IT professionals in the public and private sectors who purchase IT equipment. CDW-G surveyed IT executives in business; federal, state and local government; and K-12 and higher education. Of the 752 managers surveyed, 300 were federal, state and local government IT managers.

Federal managers surveyed estimated that they could save 18 percent of their IT energy costs, or $9.1 million annually, if they implemented energy-saving measures mentioned in the report, such as buying energy-efficient computer equipment, making full use of power management tools and opting for virtualization.

Products that earn the Energy Star rating reduce greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency. In May, the EPA added servers to the Energy Star rating system.

The survey describes two federal energy-saving success stories.

Zion National Park in Utah reduced its energy consumption and costs while increasing IT capabilities. Park managers reduced desktop power consumption by as much as 80 percent by replacing 40 desktop PCs with thin clients and powering down unused machines during the off-season.

Los Alamos National Laboratory avoided $1.4 million in costs by virtualizing 250 servers and retiring three data centers, allowing for increased computing capacity without increasing its carbon footprint.

By taking full advantage of energy-saving opportunities, state and local agencies estimate they could save 16 percent of their IT energy costs, or $368,000 annually, according to the survey.

The top three energy-saving measures identified by state and local agencies are migrating to LCD monitors, buying Energy Star-compliant devices and coaching employees to shut down equipment that they are not using.

Another example of energy savings came from Hutto, one of the fastest growing cities in Texas. Its population has exploded from only 1,200 in 2000 to more than 17,000 today, which has put pressure on the city's IT department to upgrade Hutto's technology infrastructure without dramatically increasing energy consumption and costs.

City officials achieved that goal by virtualizing three of 15 servers. They also replaced 85 percent of their desktop PCs with thin clients, reducing desktop power consumption by as much as 250 percent, according to the survey.

CDW-G found that organizations that have successfully increased IT energy efficiency employ three tactics:

  • Ask IT staff members to manage energy costs
  • Make them responsible for lowering those costs in their facilities and
  • Give IT staff members an incentive to improve energy efficiency.

“Unfortunately, organizational leadership sometimes overlooks relatively straightforward ways to increase energy efficiency,” Gambill said.

For a copy of the complete CDW-G Energy Efficient IT Report, go to

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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