IT vendors can play a major role in reducing the world's energy consumption, but information about the benefits of technology has been lacking in an ongoing environmental debate in Washington, DC, three tech CEOs said Wednesday.
While IT consumption of energy in the US has grown in the last decade, technology also displaces more than its share of energy-consuming activities in other sectors, members of the Technology CEO Council said. The advocacy group highlighted a report, released Wednesday, saying that every kilowatt hour of energy used by IT replaces 10 kilowatt hours of energy that would have been used elsewhere.
IT currently uses about 6 percent of US electricity, up from 2% to 3% in 2000, said John "Skip" Laitner, co-author of the report and director of economic policy analysis at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). But through a wide variety of IT products, including tech that enables video conferencing, telecommuting and email, technology results in a net decrease in energy consumption, he said.
Instead of flying to a conference in Sweden recently, Laitner attended by video conference, he said. And in preparing the ACEEE's report, Laitner received thousands of pages of documents by email or downloads, instead of having them delivered.
Few studies have explored the energy efficiencies created by IT, he added. "We have to look at what that's displacing," he said.
Users of computers and other tech products should expect more energy savings in the future, said Dell CEO Michael Dell. He joined Mike Splinter, president and CEO of Applied Materials, and Joe Tucci, chairman, president and CEO of EMC, at a press briefing focused on green technologies.
"As an industry, we have begun to take up the [environmental] issue in a serious way," Dell said. "It's an issue that customers care about."
The IT industry has come under some criticism for its energy use, particularly at large datacentres. In January 2007, US Senator Wayne Allard, a Colorado Republican, introduced a bill that would require the US Environmental Protection Agency to analyse and report to Congress about the growth and energy consumption of computer datacentres by the federal government and private companies.
Congress needs to "more fully understand the impact that the growing number of computers in use throughout the country has on energy consumption," Allard said then.
The Technology CEO Council isn't concerned about congressional mandates, because the IT industry is already taking steps to reduce its energy consumption, said Bruce Mehlman, the group's executive director.
But the US government has a huge impact on energy consumption by adopting more green technologies, said Applied Materials' Splinter. "The government is the largest user of energy in our country," he said.
In addition to the ACEEE report, the Technology CEO Council released its own report, called A Smarter Shade of Green. The report lays out the group's environmental policy principles, including:
- The president should select a federal agency as a center for energy efficiency excellence, a model for other agencies going green.
- The government should invest more in green research.
- Governments across the world should reduce tariffs on green technologies.
- The US government should explore tax incentives for deploying energy-saving technologies.
- Companies shouldn't wait for government mandates or incentives, but should adopt energy-efficient strategies on their own.