Green Survey: Are Schools Geared Up for Energy Reduction?

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Information technology leaders in K-12 schools are more concerned about energy issues than their counterparts in every other sector--corporate, state/local, federal, and higher education. But they also feel least equipped to effect measures that would reduce energy consumption and energy costs, according to a new survey released Monday by CDW Government (CDW-G).

The K-12 IT Energy Efficiency Picture
According to the report, dubbed the "Energy Efficient IT Report" (E2IT), 71 percent of K-12 IT pros said they're concerned about lowering and managing energy costs versus and average of 61 percent in all other sectors combined. They're also more likely than others (50 percent versus 41 percent) to train their staffs to engage in energy conservation techniques, such as turning off lights when they leave a room.

However, according to the survey, they are also the least confident of all in their knowledge of energy efficiency, with 57 percent of respondents reporting that they don't know all they could about energy efficiency compared with an average of 47 percent in other sectors. And, significantly, only 20 percent reported that they would receive recognition by management for improving energy efficiency in the IT department. This compares with 36 percent in other sectors.

E2IT was based on a survey of 778 information technology professionals in both public and private sectors. Those surveyed were responsible for equipment purchases for their organizations. One hundred fifty-two of these worked in the K-12 sector.

"... [T]he E2IT Report detects high levels of support for energy efficiency among IT executives, but E2IT also finds serious deficits in the information needed to address it effectively," said CDW Vice President Mark Gambill in a statement released to coincide with the survey findings. "There are tools to help, but the range of available options may be daunting for organizations that lack resources to tackle the challenge."

The report provided several recommendations for improving the energy situation in K-12 schools.

These included:

  • Increasing education and training for staff on equipment and energy management strategies;
  • Conducting energy efficiency assessments through local utilities or state government agencies;
  • Identifying opportunities for energy reduction and assigning responsibility for taking advantage of those opportunities; and
  • Recognizing individual efforts for reducing energy costs at schools through awards, promotions, or other incentives.

Other findings in the K-12 sector include:

  • Only 30 percent of K-12 IT executives indicated that energy efficiency is an important factor when purchasing end-user equipment (desktops, etc.);
  • Energy efficiency is a more significant consideration in the purchase of data center equipment (42 percent);
  • 53 percent indicated that the IT department "receives reports, authorizes payments, or otherwise has responsibility for the amount and cost of energy used in the organization's IT operations"; and
  • A full 76 percent said that the inability to measure energy usage in the IT department is a significant barrier to improving energy efficiency.

Cross-sector Findings
Taking all sectors into account, 94 percent of IT professionals said their organizations are "taking steps to manage IT energy consumption and energy costs." But only 34 percent cited energy efficiency as an important consideration when purchasing new equipment. The top priorities in purchasing new equipment in K-12 are reliability and manufacturer service and support.

Of those IT departments with responsibility for IT energy costs (which accounts for 57 percent of all IT departments), 88 percent are involved in developing strategies for managing energy consumption. In IT departments that do not have this responsibility, only 38 percent are involved in developing energy efficiency strategies. Of those with energy management strategies in place, 90 percent reported seeing favorable results, and 39 percent reported energy savings of 1 percent or more. (Some indicated that while they have not reduced their energy costs since implementing a strategy owing to rising energy costs, they'd be worse off with no strategy at all.)

 

Among those organizations that have reduced energy costs by 1 percent or more, there seems to be no single way in which IT staffs are helping to lower consumption.

Fig. 2 below shows the mix of techniques employed by these organizations.

 

Some of the barriers to achieving energy efficiency across all sectors include:

  • While 31 percent of those surveyed say they purchase Energy Star 4.0-rated equipment, a full 62 percent indicated that they do not take full advantage of those devices' energy management features; and
  • While 32 percent purchase energy-efficient/load-shedding uninterruptible power supplies, 52 percent said they do not use the software that comes with those devices to monitor energy demand and use.

There is a margin of error of ±3.49 percent on data spanning all sectors. There's a margin of error of ±8 percent on single-sector data in the study. A complete copy of the Energy Efficient IT Report, as well as further information about the demographics and methodology of the survey, can be found here.

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About the author:David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

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