The BBC is reporting that a consortium of big IT industry names: Google, Microsoft, Intel, HP, Sun, Dell and Yahoo, is working to radically reduce the amount of energy consumed in PCs and servers – “enough to cut [carbon dioxide] emissions by 54 million tonnes a year – equal to 11 million cars or 20 coal-fired power plants”. The initiative is an extension of the WWF’s Climate Saver’s programme.
One worry about this is the “rebound effect” – the tendency for efficiency gains to get lost in favour of other benefits. For example, microprocessors’ speed is limited by the amount of heat they generate. If the energy efficiency measures reduce the amount of heat given off by the chips, then the commercial pressure will be to increase processor speed rather than reduce overall energy consumption.
On the other hand, the involvement of so many software companies in the consortium, suggests that the focus may be on energy consumption during ‘sleep’ or standby modes. This approach would be less likely to be affected by the rebound effect.
Whichever way it goes, it will interesting to see what the actual energy benefits are.