Green ICT in Government
Government entities have an important role to play in encouraging sustainable ICT across all industries. Effective leadership requires internal implementation, as well. The tag at the top of this post - government - helps you easily locate posts containing opportunities for and applications of Green ICT in government operations. (Green ICT in public education is found through the education tag.)
You can see our coverage of the US Federal government's plan for consolidation of its (supposed) 2094 data centers in the 2011 section of this post. The Federal Times reports that by June 2013, "…agencies had a revised inventory of more than 6,000 data centers…'We’re three years into the data center consolidation effort, and the government still does not know how many centers it has,' said [a federal IT official.]…[the goverment] has touted data center consolidation as a major cost-cutting initiative estimated to save $3 billion by 2015. Those numbers, however, seem less certain as the definitions of a federal data center evolve along with the metrics used to track progress toward consolidating those facilities." The article cites "lack [of] visibility or oversight into how offices and bureaus spend their IT dollars" and a lack of "real transparency and metrics". Not knowing how much IT gear exists, where it is located, or how much energy it consumes is a common problem in large decentralized bureaucracies ranging from government agencies to public universities.
America's National Security Agency's (NSA) new data center in Utah shows the growing size scope of "mega" datacenters. NPR reports in June 2013, "The gargantuan $1.2 billion complex…features 1.5 million square feet of top secret space. High-performance NSA computers alone will fill up 100,000 square feet…It requires 65 megawatts of power, enough for 65,000 homes…the availability and relatively low cost of power put Utah at the top of the list for the center. That much power generates so much heat that the computers will fry without 1.5 million gallons of cooling water a day…the Utah center will employ about 100 technicians to keep the power and water flowing and the computers and other equipment humming…The maintenance costs of the center are pegged at $20 million a year…" There have been no reports about Green ICT technologies or practices coming out of the top secret facility. (More about data centers' water consumption and the value of location for data centers.)
The New York Times reported in March 2013 that the U.S. Federal Government is trying, but not always succeeding, to make sure its e-waste is properly recycled. "The Obama administration, more than any of its predecessors, has strengthened oversight of electronic waste. In 2012, the General Services Administration enacted rules discouraging all agencies and federal contractors from disposing of it in landfills. The federal government, which is among the world’s largest producer of electronic waste, disposes more than 10,000 computers a week on average. Federal agencies are failing to sufficiently track their electronic waste, and large amounts of it are still being disposed of through public or online auctions, according to a Government Accountability Office report last year. In these auctions, the waste is often sold to a first layer of contractors who promise to handle it appropriately, only to have the most toxic portion subsequently sold to subcontractors who move it around as they wish."
Leading by Example: Using Information and Communication Technologies to Achieve Federal Sustainability Goals is a Sep 2012 report from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) that offers eight case studies, ranging from telework to cloud computing.
The U.S. Federal Energy Management Program offers a case study on 'retro-commissioning' a data center. "retro-commissioning (Retro-Cx) is a systematic, documented process for identifying operational and maintenance improvements to enable existing buildings to achieve their design intent." "The Total Cooling System Load dropped from 402.9 kW to 229.8 kW, a savings of 173.1 kW. The PUE improved from 4.00 to 2.77 from an overall 30 percent reduction of total electrical load...The Retro-Cx energy-efficiency project at SRS [Savannah River Site]showed that very basic adjustments to existing CRAH unit functions and careful review and adjustments to floor tiles can result in great improvements in efficiency without large expense." The payback period was reported to be 2.2 months.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has entered the Green ICT business."We help agencies achieve their environmental sustainability goals by offering IT and telecommunications products and services that reduce energy consumption and e-waste and optimize performance, including: Data center optimization, Equipment recycling, Green professional services, Power management, Telework"
Google is pressing its case for cloud apps with these 2012 results: "…the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)…recently switched its 17,000 users to Google Apps for Government. We found that the GSA was able to reduce server energy consumption by nearly 90% and carbon emissions by 85%. That means the GSA will save an estimated $285,000 annually on energy costs alone, a 93% cost reduction." Unisys helped GSA complete the migration in July 2011.
The US Department of State's Greening Diplomacy Initiative includes a LEED Gold data center planned to be fully operational in 2012. The agency also reports its "Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) procures only Energy Star and Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) compliant IT equipment for deployment in all consolidated bureaus and overseas missions. For its data centers, the Department purchases Energy Star rated servers…" I'd like to see the State Department up its EPEAT procurement to purchase only the more sustainable EPEAT Gold products. There are 1200 models of EPEAT Gold computers and displays available in the United States.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) video, below, offers the (undated) statistic that "up to 3% of all [US] electricity powers data centers." The video does not say if the featured data center is a DOE facility.
The US Government Services Administration (GSA) has issued "…guidelines banning all federal agencies from disposing of electronic waste in landfills…Under the new policy, reusing electronics remains the priority. Asset managers will first offer these products for reuse by other agencies. Then they will seek to donate them to schools, non-profits, and local governments or offer them for sale. For non-functioning items that must be disposed of, federal agencies agencies are now banned from sending these materials to landfills or incinerators; instead, they will recycle them with third-party certified e-waste recyclers. "
Legacy apps and their environments can be barrier to virtualization and other forms of consolidation. A MeriTalk survey sponsored by Jupiter Networks reveals that "…60 percent of Federal data centers [are] running 20 or more operating systems and 48 percent [are] using 20 or more management software applications." The report concludes that "…this growing IT complexity could jeopardize the scale and speed of budget savings" associated with the Federal data center consolidation effort described below.
A report from the Federal CIO says that cloud computing could save the US Government $60 billion per year, but ignores potential sustainability benefits like lower energy consumption or reduced CO2e emissions.
A US Government blogger states, "Between 1998 and 2010, the Federal government quadrupled the number of data centers we operate. Moreover, on average these centers have been using only 27 percent of their computer power even though taxpayers are footing the bill for the entire infrastructure, real estate and energy costs." The government's goal is to have shut down 800 data centers by the end of 2015; 81 are already closed. The current administration is to be commended for revealing the embarrassing statistic (transparency) and taking action to remedy the situation.