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Utility Incentives to Drive PC Power Management

utilityincentivesCorportations can save $20-60 per computer workstation by implementing power management features, but despite the average payback of less than one year to implement such programs, corporations are reluctant to install them for two key reasons — the initial cost of implementation and the time investment required by the information technology (IT) department, which is why utilities need to offer incentives, according to a new report from Beacon Consultants Network Inc.

The white paper, Power Management for Networked Computers: A Review of Utility Incentive Programs, launched at a recent summit focused on providing electric utilities with the resources to offer their customers incentives to reduce computer power consumption, looks at rebate and incentive programs currently offered by utilities for activating power management features on computer networks. Click here for more information about the summit, hosted by the Climate Savers Computing Initiative and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, potential energy and cost savings are significant for both utilities and their customers, providing $40,000 in annual savings and a reduction of 350 tons per year, yet the majority of enterprise computers do no use power management software. The initiative said reducing enterprise computer power consumption, which is typically 26 percent of energy use in a typical office building, helps reduce a given utility’s peak load demand charges and cooling loads, and incentives are needed particularly for non-profits and government organizations that can’t afford modest upfront investments. According to the white paper, implementation costs typically range from $3 to $15 per computer.

While monitors are often configured to sleep, fewer than 10 percent of U.S.-based computers are configured to take advantage of energy-saving features such as system standby or hibernate, according to the white paper. Beacon Consultants calculates if just half of all computers in the U.S. were power managed, it would save approximately 15 million megawatt hours, enough electricity to light 8 million homes, and would also prevent six million tons of greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions, roughly equivalent to removing a million cars from the road.

Beacon cites two technical challenges as key reasons why companies don’t implement these energy-saving features — activating sleep settings on computer networks may require the deployment of logon scripts or third-party software, and they need to ensure that sleeping computers can still receive administrative software updates.

There is also the debate of who bears the cost of a computer power management project versus who reaps the benefits. A key finding of the paper reveals that IT departments are often short on time and resources, and they rarely have direct incentives to implement energy-saving policies, which has led to leading utility and energy-efficiency programs to offer rebates and other incentives to organizations, including commercial and industrial customers, for activating and managing PC power management features. See chart above for a list of utilities that are currently offering incentives.

Energy savings estimates for computer power management features vary widely. As an example, the white paper cites the City of Miami, which believes it will save about 1000 kWh per PC annually with its recent computer power management initiative.

Utilities, including Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Reliant Energy, and SCE quote a more conservative 200-kWh annual savings per PC. Beacon Consultants said this figure is based on a 2002 Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance study of Verdiem’s Surveyor power management software for PC networks (Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance 2002). In a PC-intensive organization, this typically represents a three to six percent annual reduction in total electricity consumption, saving an average of $20-$60 per PC annually, according to the paper.

Most of the program managers interviewed for this paper believe that the 200-kWh savings estimate was at the low end of the average savings spectrum, according to Beacon Consultants. The white paper also cites a similar study of Verdiem’s Surveyor conducted by Southern California Edison in 2005, which finds the average PC energy savings at 330 kWh per year, and software vendor 1e currently claims 395-kWh savings per PC annually for machines that are often left on evenings and weekends.

Free savings estimates are available via a number of online calculators, such as the one offered by ENERGY STAR at www.energystar.gov/lowcarbonit.

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3 thoughts on “Utility Incentives to Drive PC Power Management

  1. Organizations should invest in PC Power Management software like Greentrac.

    Greentrac monitors energy wasted by each user across an enterprise and reports in real time. Each user can log into the interface and is given an energy efficiency rating, as well as feedback on when/how they’re wasting energy.

    Definitely a good investment for any organisation, they say it pays for itself in 6-8 months…

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