Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 11 News List

FEATURE: `Green' computing in the spotlight at CeBIT

POWER CUT The Climate Savers Computing Initiative will be launching its European campaign at CeBIT and is planning similar moves in Asia later this year


Banners sporting the CeBIT computer fair logo flutter in the wind at the fair grounds in Hanover, Germany, on Wednesday. The world's biggest high-tech fair will be inaugurated on Monday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as France is this year's partner country. The fair officially runs from Tuesday to March 9 and will draw some 5,000 exhibitors.


While computers alone are not being blamed for global warming, the phenomenal amounts of electricity used by some big computer centers are prompting a rethink about reducing waste.

At the CeBIT trade show in Germany from Tuesday to March 9, a collection of special exhibits dubbed the "Green IT Village" and technical seminars will highlight some of the ways that the computer industry could be kinder to the environment.

CeBIT's idea of green is a fairly mixed bag -- reducing toxic substances in computer manufacturing, recycling old computers instead of burying them in dumps and using electricity more efficiently.

Mobile computing has always had an eye on efficiency, because users hate having to recharge batteries all the time.

Now the same ideas are spreading to those who can get power from a socket 24 hours a day.

Industry analysts say environmental virtues are set to become potent selling arguments for a substantial number of private shoppers. But the biggest savings can be achieved by government and corporate computer centers.

Often their servers are packed so closely together and run so hot that extra electricity has to be used to air-condition the sites.

Germany's Environment Ministry surveyed computers at mid-sized companies and found that 1,000 running processors use as much power as 200 households. It added up power use by 50,000 German server centers in 2006 -- they alone used 8.7 terawatt-hours of electricity.

The ministry estimated that cutting power consumption in Germany's computers by 20 terawatt-hours would save annual carbon dioxide emissions of 13.5 million tonnes from fossil fuel-fired power stations.

Gartner, the US-based market researcher, has suggested three-quarters of western corporate buyers may be asking how "green" new computers are by 2010, prompted by a desire to cut power costs and avoid being sued for poisoning employees or the public.

Most will prefer to say they want to save the environment, since this sounds better, Gartner said.

A CeBIT executive, Sven Prueser, said the Green IT Village with about a dozen exhibitors would encourage fair visitors to look at the "carbon footprint" associated with their computers.

Among the exhibits will be two offices side by side. One will use technology from five years ago -- desktop computers with cathode-ray-tube monitors -- and the other will use notebooks and multi-functional printer-fax devices.

"A power meter will show how much power each office has used since the fair began. It's significant," said Marc Thylmann, a spokesman for the German computer industry federation Bitkom.

Gabriele Doerries, a CeBIT spokeswoman, said the village would function mainly as a place to answer questions and offer information about ways to reduce computer power consumption.

A US-based non-profit society, the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which was founded and is co-chaired by semiconductor maker Intel and search company Google, will advocate a halving in power use by computers.

Lorie Wigle, an Intel executive working on the campaign as an "adjunct" to her corporate job, explained that computers could be redesigned to cut power waste. The rest would come from encouraging users to turn computers off when they are not in use.

Most computers already have automatic stand-by software, but users generally leave it inactive, running the computers at full power.

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