Public Sector ICT Switches to greater energy Efficiency
The recent spike in energy prices has once again drawn attention to the costs associated with powering IT infrastructure, and high-density technologies such as data centres aren’t the only things under the spotlight.
The energy consumption of technology across departments and agencies within the government—including PCs, laptops, and peripheral devices such as printers—is under the microscope as civil servants look to manage budgets and keep a lid on costs. Though recent sharp increases in energy costs have focused the mind, the public sector is no stranger to taking action to make its technology estate more sustainable.
It’s a point etched in the Greening Government ICT Annual Report 2021 to 2022 recently by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra). Although Defra is better known for its work with farmers on matters such as rural affairs and food production, its increasingly important focus on environmental matters means it’s now the lead government department for sustainable information and communications technology (ICT) within the U.K. government.
As part of this ever-growing task, one of Defra‘s roles is to ensure government ICT services are designed, delivered, and operated with sustainable principles at their core. This includes Defra‘ Digital, Data, and Technology Services (DDTS) team, which is tasked with looking at the environmental impact of IT across the government to ensure sustainability is an integral part of the delivery of the government‘s digital services.
This includes the procurement of technology and services to ensure they’re as energy efficient as possible—both within the government‘s own IT estate and the companies providing services with systems held elsewhere.
The ICT estate on government property has become more energy efficient as departments have moved into service provisions driven by Cloud First and Digital Policies, says Defra‘s report. Therefore, the energy impact of government ICT has moved from not just government estates but to those of our service providers.
Defra‘s report points out in 2021, network equipment consumed the most energy (with 32.23% of the total energy) followed by peripherals (19.21%) and servers (15.93%). Other areas such as assets, imaging equipment, and audio equipment made up the rest.
As a result, this latest Defra report can provide a more accurate ICT energy consumption figure, with all hosting suppliers formally tasked to provide energy data relating to the services government is consuming.
As Chris Howes, Defra‘s chief digital information officer (CDIO) points out,Technology and tech teams have a massive role to play in supporting the sustainability objectives of the organisations they support. We’ve been publishing information on emissions from government technology for over 10 years now. And we’ve seen steady reductions in emissions through things like the move to the cloud, enabling us to leverage hyperscale-level data centres and cutting-edge technology.
Such data gathering is important because the first step in reducing energy consumption is understanding exactly how much is being used and where.
Indeed, progress towards net zero ICT and digital services and increased availability of data about footprint, cloud hosting, and green energy mix are listed as some of Defra’s performance highlights for the year.
Having access to this level of detail underlines just how important energy consumption is in terms of the planning and buying process for IT teams, helping to shape discussions and focus spending to deliver the biggest payback in terms of energy efficiency.
It also helps that the major providers of ICT have their own detailed environmental, social, and governance (ESG) analysis to help the public sector make better-informed decisions.
Take SolarWinds, for example. We embed the principles of advancing a circular economy into our practices through green investments and the long-term implementation of new technologies. Reducing energy usage across our business is a key part of improving the operational and environmental performance of our properties. This includes using high-efficiency electrical equipment, including LED and motion detector lighting, alternative energy sources, and efficient heating/cooling units—all of which reduce our energy footprint.
One of the biggest ways the government can reduce costs is by continuing to move away from energy-intensive legacy systems to more efficient modern cloud-based solutions. Depending on which report you favour, the shift from legacy systems to cloud computing has the potential to reduce energy consumption by anywhere from 65% to 93%.
Rationalising the technology estate also means departments can remove redundant kits or duplicate systems. By optimising the tech available, public sector CIOs can eradicate unnecessary spending and associated running costs.
Though the recent spikes in energy prices are a cause for concern, the long-term benefits of greener and more efficient technology—such as reduced costs and stable infrastructure—remain the ultimate goal.
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