PCs and associated peripherals contribute about 31% of worldwide ICT energy use – and many companies would like to pare this down, but don¹t know where to start.
"Organisations can no longer view programmes that improve environmental performance across the PC fleet as optional," says Stephen Kleynhans, research vice-president at Gartner. "Organisations increasingly need to establish a plan that contributes to an overall corporate environmental strategy, without interrupting end users' operations."
Federica Troni, principal research analyst at Gartner, adds: "Basic power management features are available for free on most PCs and in client operating systems. PC configuration management suites increasingly include power management capabilities, while third-party power management point solutions can provide further capabilities."
Gartner has identified seven key steps of a programme to improve environmental performance throughout the PC life cycle.
* Survey your environment – Understanding current energy use is crucial in assessing progress and determining the appropriate metrics, but it can prove challenging as few companies are able to track office facilities¹ electricity use. Gartner advises against relying on vendor-provided figures for PC hardware draw and instead advocates the use of a simple power meter. Power meters provide a basic understanding of how much it costs to power PCs and the savings that organisations can accrue if they started managing their power states.
* Create a policy – Gartner recommends that a policy document start with a statement of organisation intentions and link it to a set of goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), such as increased energy efficiency, highest vendor environmental standards, and the exclusion of specific toxins by a given date. As with other corporate responsibility programmes, the success of environmental programmes are primarily affected by users and their behaviour. Success for a user policy is often a question of balance as being too aggressive can negatively impact the users¹ perceptions.
* Set realistic goals for energy efficiency and waste management – Companies often set unrealistic goals for PC energy reduction. A blanket goal of "50% reduction" sounds good but may be unachievable because different parts of an organisation will have different starting points and will be able to implement different practices. It is important to define localised goals for specific target user groups or business units, which contribute to the wider corporate agenda.
* Budget for tools to reinforce the policy – Free tools to manage power settings are available but may not always be effective in all cases. Power management tools can support the enforcement of policies on energy use and reduce energy consumption without compromising security and desktop support. Although power management tools are relatively inexpensive, and often fully recover their costs in energy savings, they should still be budgeted for.
* Establish reporting and auditing mechanisms – Many companies have been disappointed by a lack of impact on their monthly power bills directly attributable to a PC power efficiency programme. However, even when power savings are negligible, the ability to report on emission reductions will become increasingly important. Gartner recommends that organisations purchase a power auditing programme, which is typically included as part of a power management tools package.
* The right PC for the right user – Different PCs have very different power consumption levels and equipping users¹ systems with the right configuration and capacity can be an important step in reducing electrical usage. Although newer PCs and monitors are becoming increasingly efficient, companies should not use power savings as an excuse to replace systems earlier, but should ensure that when systems are replaced, power management features are implemented as part of the deployment process.
* Disposal – PC disposal is probably the toughest issue to deal with because it can involve additional expense, particularly in the current economic downturn, when markets for recycled materials have crashed. Organisations should carefully balance their environmental principles with the potential costs.