Green Tech: How Saving Energy Translates to Lower OpEx Costs

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-01-13 Print this article Print

This may be a bit surprising to some corporate executives: IBM figures that for every dollar saved in energy drawn from the wall, a company saves $6 to $8 in operational costs as a result.

SUNNYVALE, Calif.-If anybody still questions the bottom-line dollar value to a corporation of saving energy in the data center, they should think about this: IBM figures that for every dollar saved in energy drawn from the wall, a company saves $6 to $8 in operational costs as a result.

Thus stated IBM Vice President of IT Optimization Rich Lechner during a Jan. 12 SDForum conference titled "The State of Clean Energy: Global Challenges and Opportunities," hosted by Advanced Micro Devices at its campus here.

"We've found that our [data center] customers save an average of about 40 percent on their power and cooling costs after they work with us [on upgrades]," Lechner said. "We're talking about savings we have noted from more than 3,000 customers around the world."

Lechner said that this energy savings invariably leads to direct cost savings elsewhere in the company-and all through the supply chain.

"We're talking about dollar savings from running fewer servers-such as 100 down to 40, in one recent case; fuel costs going way down; people costs going down; and  many other factors. The use of energy is connected with everything in a corporation."

Lechner was on a panel that discussed "The Greening of Corporations," which also included Scott C. Bolick of SAP, Mukesh Khattar of Oracle, Bruce Klafter of Applied Materials and moderator Lynelle Cameron of Autodesk.

IBM, along with just about every other IT vendor, has been focusing hard on retooling its hardware to use less electric power-thanks largely to new, cooler-running processors from companies such as Intel, AMD and QLogic. IBM's Global Services division also has been doing increasing business helping companies upgrade their data center operations with lower-power, more efficient servers, storage arrays and other hardware.

Bolick said that SAP has identified energy sustainability as a long-term strategy, even though it is a company that doesn't have a large corporate carbon footprint at its physical locations.

"Most of our carbon footprint-50 or 60 percent of it-is caused by employee travel," Bolick said, representing a lot of companies. "We're working on doing a lot more telecommuting whenever possible, and we're starting to look at smaller engines for our company vehicle fleet in Europe."

Khattar of Oracle said his company has reduced its own considerable carbon footprint by 17 to 18 percent.

Fossil Fuels Won't Go Away Anytime Soon

Sally Benson, head of Stanford University's Global Climate and Energy Project and part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific team that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for researching climate change, also spoke at the conference.

Benson claimed in her keynote that the world can indeed meet its future energy needs and control climate change for 50 to 100 years out. However, this will still include the use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

"We need a fresh look at our energy system," Benson said. "Global demand for energy is expected to double from 15 terawatts to 30 terawatts by 2050, given projected population and economic growth. We can meet that huge new demand [with an expected world population of more than 9 billion in 2050] by slowly but surely replacing fossil fuels power with sustainable, clean energy-such as natural gas, photovoltaic [sun], wind and hydropower."

Thirty terawatts is the amount required to power about 30 billion American homes, she said.

By gradually transforming the types of energy used and how emissions are reduced or contained, the world will be able to meet its power needs while cutting down on greenhouse gases, Benson said.

"At the end of the day, solving the climate change problem is more about transforming our energy systems than limiting greenhouse gas emissions," Benson said. "If we successfully transform our energy system, we will achieve those reductions."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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