Australia spends nearly a billion dollars each year powering computers

A server has same carbon footprint as a 4WD taking 17 litres of fuel to travel 100km

Australian enterprises are the largest consumers of electricity used for computing but still lag behind when it comes to environmental leadership, according to new research released today by Springboard Research.

Despite its large carbon footprint, Australia's ICT sector has a tendency to interpret Green IT initiatives as just another cost and process to endure.

The findings were released on the very same day the federal government hosted its two day Greenhouse Challenge Plus conference in Canberra.

Keen to establish partnerships with private industry aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Australian Greenhouse Office which is part of the Department of the Environment and Water Resources is staging the event. Over 700 businesses and industry bodies are participating in the Greenhouse Challenge Plus program including Thiess, the Minerals Council of Australia, Lion Nathan Ltd and Yalumba.

It is well supported by the big players such as IBM but there are very few local ICT companies involved in the initiative. One of the few is Australian IT firm, Renewtek, which is the first local technology company to go carbon neutral.

Large enterprises in Australia comprise the largest consumers of electricity used for computing at 41 percent, followed by IT users at 32 percent and small to medium enterprises at 28 percent.

Springboard Research vice president, Bob Hayward, said computing devices have a significantly large and unrecognized carbon footprint.

For example, an average sized server has the same carbon footprint as a mid-sized 4WD taking 17 litres of fuel to travel 100km.

"As companies become more accurate in determining what percentage of energy costs are allocated to the IT department, you will see cost savings will be the key driver of green IT investments," he said.

Springboard estimates that over AUD$837 million per year is spent on powering computers in Australia with the overwhelming majority of this spend wasted on systems thar are in idle mode.

Hayward said IT vendors are taking steps to make their products more energy efficient, adding that this is an ideal opportunity to educate users without increasing costs.

He predicts more regulations to be introduced in coming years to encourage the adoption of Green IT and more disposal programs.

"As some vendors provide disposal services for free, the providers that do not and charge users will stand out," Hayward said.

"Server virtualization is accounts for 30 percent of new product acquisitions in Australia and the installed base is around 15 percent."

Last year the federal government made it mandatory for Australian companies receiving fuel excise credits of more than $3 million to participate in Greenhouse Challenge Plus.

Renewtek chairman, Neil Perry, presented at the conference on ways the ICT industry can reduce its carbon footprint. The company recently received Greenhouse Friendly certification from the federal government.

Perry said its green initiatives along with training and career development programs had helped the company retain staff.

"This is important because we plan to triple staff and revenues within three years," he added.

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