E.on UK - parent of Powergen – has a duty to cut carbon under the government’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Target. The energy company is investing substantially in renewable energy to reduce the carbon emitted from generation. and is making a substantial investment in renewable energy. The company is committed to going above and beyond those targets. Reducing non-operational carbon footprint will play a big part in delivering its objective.

Global Action Plan launched in-depth research on attitudes towards environmental sustainability among the UK IT community at an event at the House of Commons on 3 December.

Read all our coverage of the initiative here.

Nathan Bishop, head of infrastructure design and coordination for E.ON Information Services UK is charged with reducing his department’s consumption by 10% per year.

Bishop is also a founding member of Global Action Plan’s Environmental IT Leadership Team (EILT). A seat on the board was "a chance to study other members’ takes on environmental IT", he admits. The clincher, though, was "being part of something that avoids the green bandwagon and wields some influence over vendors."

"At E.on, from an IT perspective we’re focussed on the reduction of non-operational carbon. In our business that means energy consumed by anything other than power stations." For IT, this means cutting consumption on the desktop, in the datacentre and other sundry bits of IT equipment. Of course, more broadly, it also means utilising IT to cut travel miles and using offices more efficiently.

Part of this broader commitment includes a target of reducing non-operational energy footprint by 10% year on year. This policy was introduced over a year ago and Bishop says his information services department hit this - with an extra 7% on top. This was accomplished in year one primarily through the efforts of an internal army of Green Champions.

"A lot can be achieved through simple gestures such as switching off lights and turning off computers," explains Bishop. The benefit of turning off 80% of an estate of 17,000 PCs overnight is expected to save £150,000 per year on electricity costs. Bishop aims to fully implement the programme using Microsoft’s SMS by early next year.

The IT department was also instrumental in introducing online virtual meetings and implementing IP telephony so that employees can collaborate without leaving the desk. Purchase of a new fleet of IBM PCs with a smaller footprint of 46 watts compared to the industry norm of 82 watts has also reduced energy consumption by £60,000, reckons Bishop.

Greater energy – and cost-savings - will accrue though Eon’s datacentre consolidation programme. "By rationalising nine datacentre locations down to two, we expect to save at least £200,000 per year on energy through better utilisation of computing assets." This was achieved through the use of more than 300 VMWare hosts, as well as virtualised Unix and storage infrastructure. The rationalisation has also led to additional reductions and cost savings as E.on has avoided spending on more hardware.

Continuing to meet the 10% target will be a steeper challenge once the obvious wins have been implemented. Much rests on better planning, believes Bishop. "All business proposals are currently judged on ROI – it would make sense to build environmental benefits into the business proposal as well. Like all aspects of green IT, he adds, "benefits will be longer term if they are built into policy."

Have you calculated the carbon footprint of your IT activities?

We’ve worked it out for PCs (saving £150,000 per year) and are in the process of creating a benchmark for the datacentre too.

Does your department pay for the energy consumed by your organisation’s IT equipment?

We are a separate services group that provides the IT infrastructure and we have a separate profit and loss sheet. That’s a useful exercise in its own right as it forces us scrutinise what we spend and have an open book, including visibility of the energy costs.

Does IT play a role in defining green strategy in the organisation?

Again as a separate organisation, we have our own corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy - and it’s mainly an IT policy. Many of our IT initiatives in the UK are fed up to the main board via the CIO.

What one environmental policy have you implemented that you feel has been particularly significant?

Making environmental policies ‘business as usual’ rather than something special.

Do you have an identified person within IT who is now responsible for green IT?

For E.on UK's information services that’s me, plus I have one of the group’s main green champions working for me.