Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Energy efficient PCs for Australian Government

According to a news report an Australian Public Service interdepartmental committee is looking at reducing government greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. To speed up the process, I suggest the Acting Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, direct all federal government departments to switch on the energy saving features in current computer hardware as of 1 September 2008 and implement mandatory energy standards for new computer purchases, as of 1 October 2008.

Reducing energy use in lighting, air-conditioning, heating and electrical equipment in government buildings is a very difficult task. Most building equipment has a long life and requires building work to change. One area which is relatively easy, and the government could get quick results, is energy saving for desktop PCs, laptops and peripherals.

Most existing desktop PCs and laptops in government agencies already have energy saving hardware and software features in them. But in many cases these features have never been activated, or have been disabled. It would be relatively simple to issue a directive to agencies to switch on energy saving. This could be based on US Executive Order 13423 which requires US federal agencies to activate ENERGY STAR “sleep” features on computers and monitors. The US Council on Environmental Quality issued detailed procedures on how to get agencies to do this.

There are regular government tenders for new PCs to replace old ones. It is relatively simple for agencies to include energy efficiency requirements in new tenders. The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) issued a request for tender last week which includes mandatory energy saving requirements. An RFT from the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research this week has optional energy saving criteria.

The Australian Government could adapt the regulations which the US Government already has in place. These require US federal agencies to purchase ICT equipment which meets energy efficiency standards. In most cases the Australian Government is buying the same model computers from the same vendors as offered to the US government, so the equipment will have already been tested and approved.

Normally it would take a government committee months or years to implement such a mandatory requirement and set up the detailed procedures. But the US government has already done the work and so the Australians can simply download a copy of the US rules and edit them for Australian conditions:
ps: If this sounds unlikely, some years ago I downloaded a copy of the US DoD web guidelines and edited them to produce the Australia Department of Defence web guidelines.

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