The presentation started with a statement that it was assumed the audience knew about climate change. Suzanne then illustrated the problem with satellite photos of the arctic ice cap and vegetation around Sydney. She then outlined the Greenhouse Gas Reporting, Carbon Pollution Reductions Scheme and the Garnaut Change Report. It was pointed out that the Greenhouse Gas Reporting program has already come into effect with major emitters having to report. The impact of the Carbon Pollution Reductions Scheme in increasing the cost of products which produce CO2 was discussed.
IBM was a charter member of the Energy Star program in 1992. IBM claims to have reduced CO2 emissions by 44% from 1990 to 2005, due to energy savings. IBM is also a founding member of the Green Grid.
It was pointed out that IT accounts for about 2% of CO2 emissions, similar to aviation (as found in the ACS ICT Carbon Audit). Suzanne asserted that IT can also be used to reduce emissions in other industries.
IBM puts an emphasis on data centre energy use. IBM doesn't make desktop and laptop computers any more, having sold off this business to Lenovo. IBM is using low power devices, including thin clients. The data centre energy use started out being a concern over capacity, with building air conditioning not being able to cope with more computers. It is the air conditioning which consumes much of the power. Suzanne claimed that it is the fans in the servers consuming most of the power. Water cooling can be used to make the process more efficient. I am skeptical that the fans consume a lot of the power and that water cooling is a solution. Water cooling is useful in very high density installations, but here more exotic technologies can be sued, such as carbon dioxide colling as proposed for the Canberra data center. But such high densities for data centers are not necessarily a good idea and air colling with more space may a better solution.
Virtualization can be used to reduce energy use by combining the functions of several computers into one. In addition IBM consolidated its data centres and also the management of them globally. Between 1997 and 2008 the number of data centres was reduced from 155 to 7, web hosting centres from 80 to 5, network technologies from 31 to 1 and from 15,000 applications to 4,700. Presumably the one networking technology used is IP with Ethernet. This is ironic as I recall IBM strongly recommending not using IP or Ethernet to its customers in the 1990s.
Some technologies for others to use are:
Intelligent Utility Networks. "GridWise Project". in the USA (may be done with Country Energy in NSW). This can be used to smooth out the peak energy use by 15%.
Stockholm Congestion Tax Project used to charge for car use in the city. This reduced car use. Brisbane is looking at using something similar.
Advanced Water Management: The IBM Australian Development Labs are working on sensor systems for Victorian water catchments.
Some simple solutions Suzanne suggested:
- Remove Desktop Printers: Reduces consumables and energy use.
- Shut laptop when not in use.
- Stands for laptop screens in place of desktop screens.
- Laptops in place of desktops: This was the only suggestion I disagreed with. It was claimed that desktop computers use more energy than laptops, which is the case for the average desktop. But laptop computers use less energy because they have smaller screens and lower performance processors than desktop computers and cost more. Also laptops have batteries which use more materials and increase the price. If willing to lower the performance of the desktop, then its power consumption can be reduced to that of a laptop, at a lower price.
The ACS announced this week that it would be developing accrediting for green ICT. So I asked if this would be of use to IBM. The answer was that green ICT should be part of the training for the various professionals, such as those doing data centres, rather than a specific specialization. Perhaps the ACS should include this in the core body of knowledge required for all ICT professionals, just as ethics training is. There then could be small modules for the various specializations.
Another questioner raised the issue of carbon neural energy sources. This raises the possibility that organizations would be tempted to take the easy option and just buy green power to run its computers. But reducing the energy use would reduce the energy cost as well as CO2 emissions.
Telecommuting also came up as an option to save energy.
Another questioner asked about tools for calculating an organization's carbon footprint. IBM partners with another organization to do that.