DOE Blowing $23 Million in Next 5 Years Over BS Energy Management Errors

DOE is caught using old school energy practices in an energy savvy world. Photo via Marcin Wichary via Flickr CC

The U.S. Department Energy's Office of the Inspector General audited seven facilities, including its own headquarters, and found that dumb issues in IT energy management resulted in a wasted $1.6 million in energy costs in fiscal year 2008. Even more frustrating is that these missteps - especially apparent in their data centers - can add up to $23 million in the next five years at just these seven sites. If the fact that the Department of Energy found it is wasting energy doesn't make you want to slap your forehead and sigh in frustration, I'm not sure what will. Oh wait, I know...their recommendations for improvements will. Greener Computing reports:

The audit was conducted between July 2008 and April 2009 at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C., and Germantown, Maryland; the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Morgantown, West Virginia; the Oak Ridge Office, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and the Sandia National Laboratories and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Service Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The report concluded with such "oh, really?" recommendations as turning computer monitors off at night, setting PCs for energy efficiency, and using thin-client computing for non-classified work. They could have been reading TreeHugger and Planet Green all this time and saved a whole lot of money...

PC Energy Management Should Be a No-Brainer
In seriousness, though, these kinds of steps should be common practice by now. With companies like Verdiem leading the way and making it easy to customize PC energy efficiency measures, there's no reason why any computer-intensive business, group or industry can't cut way back on energy consumption. We should not be seeing audit reports that say this:

Although the Code of Federal Regulations and Executive Order 13423 - Strengthening Federal Environment, Energy, and Transportation Management - require Federal agencies to enable power management features on computers and monitors, we found that none of the seven sites reviewed had ensured that these settings were in place.

Getting On Board With Data Center Energy Efficiency
That goes for data center energy management too. The DOE found that the majority of sites weren't even tracking efficiency of their data centers.
However, five of the field sites reviewed had not monitored the amount of energy used by their data centers and, therefore, could not justify the benefits of implementing more efficient technologies. For instance, data center officials at ORNL noted that they were unaware of the costs of operating the data center and had not coordinated with facilities personnel to monitor and reduce energy consumption...In addition, we found that even though the Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy recently developed the Data Center Energy Profiler - an automated tool designed to identify numerous energy-saving opportunities within data centers - at a cost of $465,000, none of the sites reviewed had utilized this tool.

Green thinkers agree that if it can be measured, it can be managed - so where is the measurement, let alone the management? As we just covered, data centers are starting to kick into gear in terms of efficiency and the DOE ought to be right in line with the cutting edge advancements. Yet the audit wraps up with:

"Despite its recognized energy conservation leadership role, the department had not always taken advantage of opportunities to reduce energy consumption associated with its information technology resources. Nor, had it ensured that resources were managed in a way that minimized impact on the environment."

Cut Costs with More Savvy IT Equipment Purchases
As for IT equipment consumption and e-waste being a big concern as electronics are increasingly viewed as disposable, it's disappointing to read about the amount of money - and more so, materials - wasted on equipment purchases:
At the seven sites reviewed, we determined that the Department paid $1.2 million more than necessary in hardware acquisition costs in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 by acquiring 2,063 desktops rather than thin-clients. In one case, Y-12 could have saved up to $235,547 in FY 2008 by paying only about $275 per thin-client rather than its average desktop cost of $950.

Not only would this have saved money in aquisition costs, but also in energy consumption of so many PCs. And going beyond purchasing thin-clients, what about simply redeploying used hardware?

It seems that there are some glaring issues with some really basic principles of sustainability happening here. But, the silver lining is that the audit happened in the first place. And, despite the fact that at least one facility disagreed with the audit's findings, most at least gave lip service that they'll make recommended changes. Now, we just have to see if they'll follow through.

More on Wasteful IT Practices
Report Shows Half of US Workers Don't Shut Down PCs, Wasting $2.8 Billion
IT Managers Are Trying to Do More With Less
Verdiem's CEO Jeremy Jaech on Corporate Energy Efficiency Changes

Tags: Computing | Corporate Responsibility | Electronics | Energy Efficiency | Environmental Footprint


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