Tech Execs Stump for Green IT on Capitol Hill

Technology chiefs lobby lawmakers to leverage IT for power consumption efficiencies. 

WASHINGTON -- Not so long ago, any sort of "green" discussion on Capitol Hill between the IT industry and lawmakers would have meant only one thing: the size of the political donation.

But members of the Technology CEO Council, an IT lobbying group, were pitching a different green message this week: an energy initiative that leverages technology to achieve greater efficiencies in power consumption.

"We have enormous opportunities to reduce energy use while increasing productivity," Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell said Feb. 6 at a press conference across the street from the White House. "We need officials here in Washington to support policies that spur the development of those technologies.

Dell and other industry leaders used the occasion to promote a new study from the ACEEE (American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy) that found technology enables a "dramatic" increase in energy efficiency and is actually a net saver of energy.

"Achieving greater levels of energy productivity requires that we start asking the right set of questions about the relationship between ICT [information and communications technology] systems and total energy use," said John Laitner, the ACEEE's director of economic policy analysis.

"Rather than focusing exclusively on the energy consumed by ICT, we should instead recognize the ways in which these technologies have helped our production processes become dramatically more efficient."

The tech chiefs also issued their own study focusing on specific technology energies, including how virtualization allows companies to run multiple systems on remote computers and, in turn, reduce energy demands. According to the Gartner Data Center Conference, 1.2 million servers have been virtualized, creating savings of 8.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

"IT energy efficiency and data center power consumption have emerged as a top priority for CIOs and within the corporate boardroom," said EMC Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci. "Server virtualization and more efficient disk drive and flash technologies are extremely energy efficient when implemented in power-intensive data centers."

The Technology CEO Council members hit Capitol Hill pitching the idea that the private sector should not only talk green, but also walk green and cited virtualization and other technologies as perfect examples.

"Many of our nation's companies have demonstrated that through technology they can do more business with less energy," said Applied Materials CEO Mike Splinter. "Now we must ensure that we maximize the energy efficiency and environmental benefits that technology brings to our economy and that those benefits are shared by all."

The government, the tech leaders said, should lead by example by setting high but flexible goals for its own use of energy-efficient technologies and by re-evaluating its energy policies.

"The government is the largest energy user," said Splinter, who also proposed the government grant tax incentives for companies that demonstrate efficient energy use over time.

"Companies like ours will use renewable energy and power-saving software to lower our power consumption and costs, and we'll continue to develop smart technologies that maximize energy use," Dell said.

He added: "There's two kinds of green, the environment and the money you save."