Why IT Does Not Have to Wait on the Smart Grid to Start Saving Energy Costs Today

Posted on January 3rd, 2011 by

President Obama recently explained the importance of our country’s transformation to a Smart Grid by saying, “It will make our grid more secure and more reliable, saving us some of the $150 billion we lose each year during power outages. It will allow us to more effectively transport renewable energy generated in remote places to large population centers, so that a wind farm in rural South Dakota can power homes in Chicago. And by facilitating the creation of a clean energy economy, building this 21st-century energy infrastructure will help us lay a foundation for lasting growth and prosperity.”

Information technology is not just an enabler of the Smart Grid vision – it is at its very core, helping to revolutionize production, transmission and consumption of electricity in homes and businesses across the nation.

One of the key challenges of the Smart Grid is that it is not 100 percent defined and operational today.  A considerable amount of time and significant financial investment are still required to create and reap the benefits of a truly functional Smart Grid. Many people are also paralyzed with inaction, dreaming about the panacea promised by the Smart Grid in the future and so doing nothing about efficiency today. This inaction creates a real risk that the promise of the Smart Grid may never be fully realized.

The good news is that we don’t need to wait. We have the power to take pragmatic steps toward the larger grid concept today.

At a technical level, Smart Grid is all about machine to machine communication. Once you have machine to machine communication, you can identify, manage and reduce the energy consumption of those machines. Measurement of who uses what, at a point in time, and the trends, are essential to help industry experts and consumers make decisions to achieve better energy efficiencies. It also enables the development of different purchase and charging models, and so drive behaviour.

Even better than general measurement of usage, however, is an identification of waste, as this leads to a direct call to action. Smart Grid software, can provide this information today, and so drive significant energy savings today.

So, how much energy and money can we save today?

In 2009, 1E commissioned a PC energy report that found that more than half of the 108 million corporate PCs in the United States were being left on overnight on a regular basis.  Simply shutting them down when not in use would save $2.8 billion per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 20 million tons in the United States alone — the equivalent of removing all of the cars in the state of Maryland.

Today, data centers account for 30 percent of all IT energy consumption, but data centers are the fastest growing segment within IT.  According to McKinsey Group, data center energy consumption is increasing by 13.8 percent annually.  If left unconstrained, and current trends continue, data center greenhouse gas emissions will surpass those of the entire airline industry by 2020.

Last year, a joint study by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy found that 72 percent of data center managers believed that up to 15 percent of their servers were doing no useful work and could simply be turned off or decommissioned.  This equates to $3.8 billion in wasted energy costs alone and $24.7 billion wasted by running non-productive servers.   As the size and number of data centers continue to grow across the globe, the avoidable waste associated with those datacenters will cost billions more if left unchecked.


Don’t wait for the Smart Grid.

Smart organizations understand that they don’t have to wait for the Smart Grid to become a reality before implementing changes. Organizations like AT&T, British Airways, Dell, Ford and the U.S. State Department have taken action and are realizing IT efficiency benefits today.

Written by Nick Milne-Home, 1E Inc.

Nick Milne-Home is the president of 1E, Inc. 1E is a leading provider of IT efficiency software solutions. 1E’s smart grid software, which automatically powers down PC’s when they are not being used, can achieve these savings today. To date, 1E has saved its customers more than $530 million in avoidable energy costs and prevented 4.3 million tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere. In June this year, Microsoft named 1E its “innovation partner of the year” for our Nightwatchman Server software – a smart grid technology which identifies and reports on servers not doing useful work.

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