Commentary

Three ways to help your government customer be green

Power IT Down Day presents an opportunity for industry to help its customers

EDITOR'S NOTE: With Power IT Down Day coming Aug. 27, we asked Citrix vice president Tom Simmons and Teresa Carlson, vice president of Microsoft Federal, to to talk about industry's role in reducing power consumption.

The federal government is the biggest consumer of energy in the country, spending $293 million annually just to power its PCs. However, the rising cost of energy – to both the taxpayer and to the planet – is increasingly forcing the government to find solutions that reduce energy usage, shrink each agency’s carbon footprint and bring skyrocketing energy bills under control.

In fact, mandates to lessen the government’s energy consumption, in part through green information technology, are continuing to gain ground. For example, the Army supports the use of lower wattage end devices, and Executive Order 13423 promotes sustainable buildings and electronic stewardship, requiring all government facilities to reduce energy consumption by 3 percent a year or 30 percent by fiscal 2015.

Despite these efforts, making green technologies work and ultimately reducing today’s record-breaking levels of energy use require the support of both industry and individuals.

Industry support

The Obama administration has continued the existing commitment to greener government. To do our part, industry must step up and provide the IT solutions that will support green initiatives across the board. But any “green” solution that hampers performance or increases the strain on budgets and personnel is unacceptable. Industry is beginning to recognize that green IT for its own sake won’t work for government or taxpayers. Solutions must provide improved energy usage and cost savings.

With this in mind, industry can take three immediate steps to improve the greening of the government:

  • Continue to develop green IT  that is as reliable and successful as previous, less energy-efficient implementations and solutions.
  • Spotlight those agencies that have taken the first steps and realized the real-world benefits of green IT implementations – particularly cost savings – on the desktop and server side. 
  • Advise government on the implementation of newer, greener technologies by providing proof of concepts and assisting with user transitions to green solutions.
Individual action

Too often individuals leave computers, monitors, printers and other peripherals on even when business is over for the day. When just one person leaves that equipment on overnight, that’s a waste of approximately 13 kilowatt-hours. Apply that across government’s 1.8 million civilian employees, and the energy waste quickly becomes very large and very expensive.

Individual choices combined with new computer settings can have a significant impact. Built-in power saving settings and automatic shut-down capabilities in Microsoft’s Windows Vista and its upcoming Windows 7 showcase such advances in power savings.

Consider, if only 1 percent of those 1.8 million government workers turned off their IT equipment for the night, the government would save an average of 234,000 kWh. With an estimated cost of $0.10 per kWh, the government could save $23,400 in one night, from an act as simple as pressing “off” buttons or adjusting power settings. Even if agency computers must remain on overnight, settings can be adjusted and other office equipment could be turned off.

The enormous impact of individual action is the core of Power IT Down Day, an annual event that challenges government and industry employees to “power down” their computers and peripherals at the end of the workday. Citrix, Microsoft Corp., Intel, Hewlett-Packard and the Professional Services Council have joined forces to encourage government to participate. This year, Power IT Down Day is Thurs., Aug. 27, and a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project will illustrate how the money saved on energy costs can be put to good use.

Industry can best serve government’s green IT needs by developing cost-effective solutions that offer improved performance along with significant reductions in energy requirements. Individuals, however, perhaps can play the biggest role of all in green government by adopting power-saving settings or powering down at the end of the day. Working together, greener government and reduced energy consumption can become a reality.

About the Authors

Teresa Carlson is vice president of Amazon Web Services’ Worldwide Public Sector.

Tom Simmons is area vice president of public sector at Citrix Systems Inc.

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