Green matters: E.on switches off in carbon cutting mission

Utility giant E.on UK is planning to cut carbon by 10% per year, which goes far beyond targets set by the government's carbon emissions reduction target. IT plays a major role in this.

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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.

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