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Saving Energy Where It Counts: On The Desktop

The real culprit when it comes to carbon emissions is the PC. Here's one way to turn off your employees' desktop machines when they're not in use.

Richard Martin

January 10, 2008

2 Min Read

When most IT pros think about reducing energy consumption they look to the data center with its power-hungry, heat-generating servers. However, the real culprit when it comes to IT's carbon-emission footprint is actually the PC on every employee's desk, according to Gartner.

Measuring carbon emissions from a variety of IT devices, Gartner found that the top three are PCs/monitors, data centers, and fixed-line telecom systems. PCs and monitors alone contribute 40% of total emissions, data centers about 23%.

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PCs worldwide consume about 80 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. As much as two-thirds of that is wasted, says Kevin Klustner, CEO of Verdiem, an IT energy monitoring and management company, translating to $5.4 billion of energy literally up in smoke each year.

Verdiem's approach: Use Web-based technology to turn off those PCs when they're not in use. The company initially focused on the public sector, where political pressure and budget cuts made monitoring and reducing power consumption a major goal.

"We save the Baltimore school district $325,000 a year," says Klustner. "For a public school district, that's a lot of money."

Now, however, more of Verdiem's business is coming from Fortune 1000 companies. Its customers average 3,500 PCs, and that number is growing. Klustner estimates that Verdiem's Surveyor software saves between $20 and $60 per PC per year, depending on electricity rates and hardware and software running.

Radio giant Clear Channel Communications became a Verdiem client last year and projects savings of $11,000 over 12 months. That's after spending $6,300 on the software and getting a $2,925 rebate from its utility, Pacific Gas and Electric. "It's pretty awesome," says Valerie Sarver, former green program manager at Clear Channel.

It's also simple: Surveyor turns off or shifts to a low-power setting PCs that aren't in use. IT managers can choose a specific time (say, 6 p.m.) to power down machines, or base the transition on usage patterns--the software can tell when a keyboard has not been used for a certain period of time.

Verdiem's 150 customers run about 500,000 PCs. Powering them down when not in use will save about 100 million kilowatt-hours this year, preventing more than 61,000 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Illustration by Peter Hoey

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