November 8th, 2007 | Published in Google Public Policy
While we know that the Internet allows people and organizations to operate much more efficiently, the reality is that personal computers, servers and data centers use too much energy. Right now, the average desktop computer is only 50% energy efficient and most servers waste 30% of the energy they use. Typical industry data centers also waste huge amounts of energy on cooling and backup power.
As we at Google looked at how to cut the amount of energy we consume, it became clear that the problem is largely not technological (it's currently possible to make more efficient computers). The problem is due mostly to a lack of a market for high efficiency equipment. Manufacturers would make more efficient equipment if they could be sure that enough people would pay the slightly higher cost (somewhere around $20-$30 extra per personal computer).
So, in a twist on the famous "Field of Dreams" line, Google and Intel led an effort to build a market for high efficient computing equipment, so that manufacturers would come. We created the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI) earlier this year, and more than 100 major corporations, environmental groups, universities and other large IT purchasers have joined the initiative and agreed to buy Energy Star 4.0 rated equipment. Participants have also agreed to employ better power management methods to reduce energy usage of existing computing systems. By 2010, we hope this effort will lead to a 50% reduction in power consumption for member organizations.
After working for years in state government, I know that governors around the country are aggressively looking for ways to reduce energy consumption and explore new solutions on climate change. Earlier this week, the co-chairs of the National Governors Association's energy task force, Governors Tim Pawlenty from Minnesota and Kathleen Sebelius from Kansas, not only agreed to have their states sign on to the initiative, but also to recruit other states to join as well. Minnesota and Kansas state governments buy over 8,000 computers a year. Imagine the impact this program can have if we get all 50 states to join.
When I came to Google six months ago to work on state policy issues I had no idea that I would be involved in a project that would make a such a big dent in energy usage. For me it is just one more example of why I like my job so much.