HSBC's European IT operation plans to add thousands of virtual servers to its datacentres by the end of 2008, in a move that will save 500kW of power - equivalent to the consumption of 500 electric fires running simultaneously.
The move is part of the bank's programme to reduce CO2 emissions, for which it has set global, regional and local targets.
"By the end of 2008, HSBC Technology Services Europe will have 35% of the Windows server central processing units (CPU) as virtual CPUs. The increase of 2,000 virtual servers will prevent the consumption of 250W of power per server, giving a saving of 500kW," a HSBC spokesman said.
The company said this is on top of 425kW of power and 425kW of cooling already saved by the virtualisation of CPUs to date.
"Reducing electricity consumption also offers major monetary savings, so we always consider energy efficiency when investing in IT," said the spokesman.
Independent energy analyst, Nigel Hawkins, said the project could save millions of pounds. However, he said that given the size of the bank's annual profit, the financial savings are small compared to the publicity benefit of being seen as environmentally friendly.
"While energy savings are always beneficial, compared with HSBC's massive profit it is not going to make much difference to the bottom line," he said.
HSBC has also introduced a policy to reduce unnecessary printing. "Most of our printers in head office will only print after the employee has passed a security pass over a reader. This has dramatically cut the number of pages being printed, as people now no longer simply print as a matter of course," the bank said.
Other power-saving initiatives at HSBC include educating staff about what they can do, such as turning off their PCs and monitors.
"One of our most successful campaigns involved telling our people that mobile phone chargers actually use almost as much power if a phone is recharging or not. Very few people now leave a phone charger plugged in at their desk."
According to research from analyst Vanson Bourne, finance firms place environmental concerns as the main reason for adopting virtual servers, with limited availability of power another major motivation.