The biggest contribution CIOs can make to fighting climate change may not be in the datacentre but by applying IT innovatively to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the business itself.
Figures from the US Environmental Protection Agency reveal that datacentres and servers accounted for just 1.5% of total US electricity consumption in 2006.
Closer to home, Tesco chief executive Terry Leahy has committed £100m to slash the retailer's 4.1 million tonne carbon footprint. However, a review to establish carbon footprint baselines found that IT contributes just 4% of the company's total carbon footprint.
Mike Yorwerth, director of group technology and architecture at Tesco, says a deeper analysis showed that Wintel platforms contribute 29% of IT's carbon footprint, compared with 3% for mainframes and 18% for storage systems.
Tesco's Wintel estate, which includes its point of sale system, is achieving utilisation rates as low as 6% compared with the retailer's mainframe utilisation figure of 98%. A further concern, says Yorwerth, is that manufacturing a personal computer requires twice as much energy at it takes to run the finished system for three years.
Yorwerth is addressing every aspect of IT to reduce Tesco's carbon footprint. Tesco aims to use virtualisation to improve Wintel utilisation from 6% to 60%. It plans to review its applications to see if it can run them on more efficient platforms, including in Linux partitions on mainframes.
Yorwerth plans to investigate virtual desktops and is switching to double-sided printing and will do more to automatically hibernate or switch off desktop units, printers and tills when not in use.
Yorwerth says even if Tesco cuts IT's carbon footprint by 25%, it will cut only 1% off Tesco's total footprint. He believes applying IT in other parts of the business could help cut the group's carbon footprint by 20% overall.
For instance, he says, a flight to New York generates two tonnes of CO2, but a teleconference for a meeting of the same length produces only 10 kilograms of CO2. Henceforth, many more Tesco meetings will be via teleconference.
Tesco has already issued a request for proposals for automated building management systems across its entire estate. These will manage the climate inside stores, dim and brighten lights as daylight changes, monitor refrigerators and heating systems more closely, and switch off non-essential systems when the store closes. This could cut energy bills 20%, says Yorwerth.
Tesco is rolling out telemetry to monitor driver behaviour and routing for its delivery fleet. "We are looking at a 17% saving on the fuel bill," Yorwerth says.
Other efforts include installing low-energy lighting, redesigning shop floor layouts to minimise cooling and heating of aisles, more home-working, and better route planning. Tesco is also insisting that all suppliers prove their green credentials.
Tesco's carbon footprint and targets
Total footprint is 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year
Grid electricity - 57%
Refrigerant - 25%
Diesel - 11%
Natural gas - 6%
Business travel - 1%
• Halve energy used per square foot in buildings by 2010 (achieved 2008)
• 50% cut in emissions from existing buildings by 2020
• 50% cut in carbon footprint of all new stores built by 2020
• 50% cut in CO2 created per case of goods delivered by 2012
How IT can cut Tesco's carbon footprint
Area of business (Potential saving as a % of total carbon footprint)
Centralised building management 8-16%
Better transport routing and telemetry 1-2%
Teleconferencing & telepresence <1%
Home working <1%
Other contributions from IT
• Carbon management
• KPIs and information dashboard on projects to cut footprint
• Framework to encourage suppliers
• Sustainable Consumption Institute support