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By Brian Robinson

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Industry hopes fed computers go dark on Power IT Down Day

I don’t know about you, but at our house everything goes dark at bedtime. I’m pretty good about turning the lights off, but my wife pulls the plug on everything that can connect to the power grid so that we can save on the last possible cent before it dribbles away into the power company’s coffers.

Power IT Down Day is an attempt by a group of companies to convince the government IT universe to do the same. Despite all the push for green IT, apparently agencies are still pretty wasteful with their power consumption.

There have been mandates for agencies to reduce their energy use, there’s a goal to cut government energy use and emissions by 28 percent by 2020, and the Obama Administration earlier this year launched its GreenGov Challenge. Given that the federal government accounts for around 1.5 percent of the total U.S. annual energy consumption, and is the largest user, just a little savings could add up to a lot of green.

The trouble is getting this message down into the trenches, or in this case down to the regular government employee at his or her desk or workplace. It doesn’t matter what the muckety-mucks in the White House or on the upper floors at agency headquarters dream up: If those employees aren’t convinced to turn their computers, printers or other devices off when they leave at night, then it’s just talk.

Most of the efforts around green IT have so far centered around the data center and other large energy users. But the largest user population, those everyday government grunts, probably have the greatest effect on energy consumption but haven’t been the focus of anything much. Hence, Power IT Down Day.

This is the third of the annual Power IT Down Days, which this year is happening on Aug. 27. The number of participants last year doubled from that of the initial event to 5,600 and achieved a total energy savings of around 73,000 kWh. The Wounded Warrior Project got $45,000 as a result.

This year, the event’s sponsors -- Citrix, Intel, Hewlett Packard and GTSI -- have a goal of getting 6,100 people to participate and, given that Aug. 27 is the first day of a weekend, save a total of 335,000 kWh of energy. That’s around $45,000 in hard dollar savings. And the Wounded Warrior Project gets another donation.

For the goals of the sponsor’s corporate citizenship, the intent is to be positive. Get people to sign up at the Power IT Down website to participate and, broadly, show government what the ROI is on better managing this every day power drain.

Here’s a more devious idea. On Aug. 27, get someone to drive around town with some kind of luminosity meter. I’m sure some bright spark can invent that in time. See which agency comes out as the best saver, and which the worst. The winner gets a shiny gold star it can put onto its Web home page proclaiming it the government energy champion, while the loser has to pay the winner’s energy bill for that weekend.

Who do you think will be the winner and the loser? Leave us a comment.


Posted by Brian Robinson on Jul 30, 2010 at 7:27 PM

Reader Comments

Wed, Aug 25, 2010

I work for the Forest Service and we also get security and software updates at night. We have been told over and over that as long as our computers are hooked into the FS network, we will get the updates, but there are still people at the office who believe their pcs must be turned on. I turn off my computer every night and I have never missed an update yet. In the past, we did have to leave our machines on. No more. Those of you who think you need to leave them on might want to check with your IT folks to make sure this is still the case.

Mon, Aug 2, 2010

I am a federal worker. We are required to leave our computers on when we leave because application updates/system upgrades are performed in batch jobs on nights and weekends. It would negatively impact productivity to perform these updates during working hours, which would cost significantly more than energy savings. I suppose if IT could communicate which nights and weekends they plan to make updates, then we could power off when nothing is scheduled, but this kind of night-by-night power-off determination would be difficult to manage across an entire workforce.

Mon, Aug 2, 2010

We've tried. We've printed out the various Executive Orders and DoD regs, and provided them to management. They Don't Care. They say the PCs HAVE to be left on to do scans and pushes. Blame the manufacturers for making things so power-hungry even in 'sleep' mode. Most around here don't even bother to switch off monitors and printers.

Mon, Aug 2, 2010 Washington, DC

Actually, we have been told not to shut down our computers at night so that security updates can be applied. If the computer is off, the security update will not be received. Although arrangements could be made to only leave computers on when updates are pushed, no one has tried to coordinate that to save energy.

Mon, Aug 2, 2010

Brian, great story except for one challenge - many federal agencies (both in federal building and commercial leases) do not have a direct energy bill and always pay a flat rate for rent and utilities (water, electric); meaning the agency can turn off all their computers, printers, etc., for an entire month and the agency still pays the same bill. Although less energy is used, the only immediate benefit is the profit margin of the leasor.

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