Emerging Tech

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Seeing red over going green

Time for businesses to wake up to some real environmental issues...

Written in a large European city and dispatched to silicon.com over a 3G network providing more than 4Mbps.

Going green ought to be straightforward but it isn't. People are habitual and find it really hard to change. Just getting them to switch off stuff seems a major hurdle.

It's lunchtime and I'm looking down the length of a big office occupying one floor of a tower block in a major mainland EU city. I can see three other people at their desks working, and just counted 102 desktop machines that are switched on, lit up and buzzing, or in standby mode.

Keyboard with go green key

Office staff feel good about recycling but overlook significant environmentally unfriendly practices
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Looking out the window, I can see directly into another tower block enjoying a similar quiet period. The people and machine-packing factor seems about the same and so does the percentage of people and lit-up machines.

I'm on the 10th floor and there are more than five storeys above me. Looking up and down the atrium, there seems to be a boring uniformity of layout and little lunchtime occupation. All the floors are lit, air-conditioned and have a lot of IT equipment consuming power.

At a modest estimate, my floor is using about 140kW and the building, in this standby mode, about 2,100kW. If I assume the building next door is about the same, we are talking 4.2MW. In this particular city, it would not be difficult to find 20 such office buildings, so the total energy use is in the order of 80MW.

If I could project this pattern of consumption across the entire city, I reckon we would soon be talking serious energy - probably amounting to the output of a nuclear power station.

Earlier today, I noted that about 35 per cent of desks were unoccupied or unallocated. Paradoxically, these offices are equipped with ample supplies of waste bins for recycling plastics and paper. I'm sure everyone feels good about such measures and, indeed, they probably see it all as a contribution to saving the planet. How wrong can they be?

Who is paying the electricity bill around here and have they not heard about going green and greener technology? Not to mention laptops, iPads, mobility and working from home.

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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