A coalition of technology companies and environmental groups launched an initiative Tuesday to conserve electricity and curb global warming emissions by making the world's computers and servers more energy-efficient.
The Climate Savers Computing Initiative, organized by Internet search leader Google and computer chip maker Intel, sets ambitious industry targets to ramp up the energy efficiency of computing gear over the next four years.
Backers include Dell Inc., Hewlett Packard Inc., Hitachi Ltd., IBM Corp., Lenovo, Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Yahoo Inc. It's also supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., U.S. EPA and the World Wildlife Fund. (MSNBC.com is a joint venture in which Microsoft is a partner.)
The plan aims to cut the amount of electricity computers consume in half by 2010 using existing power-saving technologies. Currently, the average PC wastes about half of the power it consumes, while the average server squanders about one-third, officials said.
"Let's create a more efficient IT industry by driving up the efficiency of computers," said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president for Intel's Digital Enterprise Group. "We think we can have huge savings in terms of carbon footprint and energy costs."
The initiative is expected to save more than $5.5 billion in electricity costs by 2010 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change by 54 million tons annually — an amount equal to eliminating 11 million cars or 20 large coal-fired power plants each year, company officials said.
Gelsinger estimated that energy-efficiency technology would initially make computers about $20 more expensive and servers about $30 costlier, but consumers are expected to recoup the costs through lower electricity bills and rebates from utilities.
"It will also make computers better," Google co-founder Larry Page said at the news conference at company headquarters in Mountain View. "By taking out some of the inefficiencies of computers, it will make them quieter and more reliable."
Manufacturers that take part in the initiative agree to design, produce and sell equipment that meet its energy-efficiency standards. The initiative requires computing gear to initially meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star standard of 80 percent efficiency, with the target rising to 90 percent by 2010.
Participating companies also agree to buy corporate computers and servers that meet those targets and follow guidelines to maximize their equipment's energy efficiency. Electric utilities will be encouraged to offer rebates to consumers who buy the energy-efficient gear.
Organizers also plan to launch a campaign to educate consumers, corporations and governments on how to use their computers more efficiently, mainly by using power-saving settings that put PCs into "sleep" or "hibernate" mode when they're not being used.
Two percent of the problem
The initiative is an extension of WWF's Climate Savers program, which helps corporations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Boosting the energy efficiency of computers and servers is an important step in combating global warming, said WWF senior vice president John Donoghue, adding that a recent study estimated that computing is responsible for 2 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.
"The opportunity represented by energy use from computing is tremendous," Donoghue said.
Additional background is online at www.climatesaverscomputing.org