Reducing Energy Use No.1 Priority

By Allen Bernard

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IT is going to be playing a much larger role in corporate sustainability initiatives going forward, because data centers and other IT gear are drawing ever increasing amounts of power.

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And as environmental problems worldwide become more pronounced, a company’s financial results are no longer the only defining measure of its strength, according to recent research from AMR Research. Increasing importance is being placed today on a company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy.

"There's more of a focus on climate change, and I think it's also because it's coming at the same time there's concern about energy security, said John Davies, AMR's VP of Green Technology research, a newly minted advisory practice at the firm.

"What we found was that a large number of people were starting to undertake big initiatives … looking at energy reduction and emissions reduction," which go hand in hand.

AMR Research surveyed 150 companies in the U.S., UK, Germany, and France.

The reports states that CSR programs are increasingly being scrutinized by employees, customers, partners, shareholders, the media, and even pressure groups. Growing consumer concern for global warming in particular is one of the biggest drivers behind the rise of environmental “green issues” up the corporate agenda.

IT is playing an ever more important role in these efforts, said Davies.

"I'd say in the last year we've had conversations with CIOs who now talk about energy and talk about if they don't own the plug at least wanting to know what the costs are associated with it because they are being asked that by the rest of the management team," he said.

Davies points out that, for example, new data center location decisions are being based primarily on where the best energy resources are. Google placed one of its new facilities near the Columbia River in Oregon to make use of readily available hydro-electric power.

"Today, you couldn't put a new, full-scale, let's say, trading desk/data center in Manhattan because the grid couldn't support it," said Davies. "It's just max'd, until new infrastructure is built."

The survey also found that different industries have different pain points and priorities. However, it is clear the largest number of companies in the survey are currently looking to reduce their overall energy consumption, mainly due to it being an obvious target.

Clearly, reducing energy usage has a double payoff: A big operating cost reduction while also reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions —two objectives that are directly correlated.

Because of this interest in reducing energy consumption, IT vendors are now more active in fielding more efficient products.

"Energy efficiency is critical," said Davies. "For one, for the users to be able to continue to build out and, second, from the vendor's point-of-view of, if they're going to have markets for their equipment, they have to have power and be more efficient."