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Technology companies make headway in CO2 emission cuts, says study

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The information technology industry has cut CO2 emissions by 32 million metric tons globally since 2007 is on pace to make further cuts, according to a study.

The information technology industry has cut CO2 emissions by 32 million metric tons globally since 2007 is on pace to make further cuts, according to a study.

The Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI), a coalition with Dell, Google, HP, Intel, Microsoft and others---commissioned a study from Natural Logic to set benchmarks for CO2 emissions. The study aimed to measure the CO2 emissions connected to IT equipment.

According to the study:

  • CO2 emissions have fallen 32 million to 36 million metric tons since 2007;
  • The CSCI is on track to cut IT industry emissions by 54 million metric tons by 2011;
  • Most of the CO2 emission cuts were achieved via streamlining new systems and preventing energy waste from the outlet to the computer.

Most of the units targeted by CSCI were desktops and servers, but the next effort will focus on networking gear. The CSCI added Cisco, Emerson Network Power and Juniper Networks to its board. Going forward, the group will include routers, switches and other access devices. The goal is to cut an additional 38 metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2015.

A few things to note:

  • 13 percent of CSCI membership participated in the study;
  • The study focused on desktops, notebooks and servers;
  • Future CO2 emissions gains will depend on the adoption of power management features on desktops and notebooks.

Meanwhile, the study relies heavily on estimates and assumptions. From the conclusion:

It appears that CSCI is on track to achieve roughly 60 to 70 percent of its original estimate of saving 54 million metric tons of CO2 per program year by the end of its 2009 program year (July 2009 – June 2010). Since comprehensive data on the use of power management is not yet available, the power management deployment figures we used range from 10 percent (low estimate from EPA) to 18 percent (higher estimate from market analysis) for a combined average of consumer and commercial deployments, which accounts for the range of values. Since CSCI’s original estimate was based on an assumption that the use of power management features on desktops and notebooks would be in the range of 90 percent by the end of the 2010 program year, but the latest research shows it is only around 10 percent (22 percent at the most), this seems like the biggest cause of additional results being achieved – and may represent the biggest opportunity for CSCI in the future. To meet the 54 million metric ton reduction compared to business as usual, CSCI will need to increase adoption of higher efficiency equipment and further encourage broad scale usage of power management.

There is also a large measure of uncertainty in our estimates due to the challenges in finding solid data sources for PSU efficiencies, market mix, and electricity consumption. It may be the case that with more accurate data, the estimates contained in this report could change significantly.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure