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Schools See Financial Benefits from Green Initiatives, but Budget Constraints Are Hampering Efforts

Energy efficiency is more important to K-12 IT managers than ever. About three-quarters of all K-12 organizations have a program in place or in development to reduce IT energy consumption, and most of those have already begun seeing cost savings from their efforts, according to new research released this week. But barriers to more widespread energy efficiency initiatives remain.

Schools are beginning to see some payoff from green initiatives in IT.

Top 5 Green Practices Among IT Leaders, 2010

Based on the results of CDW-G's survey, these are the five most common practices cited by IT leaders who have realized actual savings by reducing energy consumption.

  1. Continuing to shift from CRT displays to LCD displays.
  2. Moving data center systems to lower-wattage processors.
  3. Shifting desktop computer purchases to systems based on lower-wattage processors.
  4. Using power management tools integrated into operating systems.
  5. Redesigning data centers to "balance equipment and cooling needs."

Source: "CDW-G 2010 Energy Efficient IT Report."

Sixty-three percent of K-12 organizations that have energy efficiency programs in place have experienced at least some savings in IT energy expenditures, according to a new report focusing on IT practices in 2010. Another 22 percent have reduced or flattened out energy use, but increasing energy costs have prevented them from realizing savings.

According to the new "2010 Energy Efficient IT Report," released this week by CDW Government, energy efficiency is more important to K-12 IT managers than ever. About three-quarters (74 percent) of all institutions have a program in place or in development to reduce energy consumption in IT. But barriers to more widespread energy efficiency initiatives remain.

The survey for the 2010 Energy Efficient IT Report was conducted by O'Keeffe & Co. for CDW-G. It involved online interviews with hundreds of organizations across sectors, including 302 K-12 school districts and higher education institutions. (There is a margin of error of ±3.5 percent for cross-sector results and ±8 percent for results covering education specifically.)

Across all sectors, IT managers now more than ever are citing energy efficiency as "very important" when considering new equipment purchases. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed who have responsibility for procurement ranked energy efficiency as an 8 or higher in importance (on a 10-point scale), up from 26 percent just last year. Further, 31 percent said they would be willing to pay a premium for energy-efficient technology.

"Energy efficiency is no longer an afterthought, but a key requirement in many organizations' IT purchasing plans," said Norm Lillis, vice president of system solutions at CDW, in a statement released to coincide with the survey results. "Not only is excess energy consumption a drain on budgets, it also limits the ability of IT managers to provide more and better IT services to employees and customers when aging data centers approach the limits of their power sources. Improving energy efficiency is often the only way to enable improved computing performance in a power-constrained environment."

In K-12 education, 77 percent of respondents said their schools "have or are developing a specific data center consolidation strategy." That tracked closely with IT organizations across public and private sectors, 79 percent of which are also consolidating their data centers.

According to the report, virtualization (of servers or storage) is the most popular tactic used or being considered for data center consolidation, with 63 percent of organizations across sectors citing it as part of their strategy. Consolidating servers came in second at 61 percent. Other tactics cited were cloud computing (37 percent); retiring old, unused servers (36 percent); and moderating server operations during off-peak hours (22 percent), among others.

Despite ongoing efforts and evidence of cost savings, the survey also showed that barriers still exist to more effective energy reduction programs. In education, as across all sectors surveyed, budget is the most critical issue. In K-12, another major concern cited by respondents was the Inability to isolate and measure IT energy use.

Overall, other constraints cited this year included:

  • Lack of attention paid to IT energy use;
  • Lack of knowledge of how to improve energy efficiency;
  • Reductions in energy expenses resulting in cuts to IT budgets; and
  • Senior management giving investment priority to other other areas.

Further information, including a complete copy of the "2010 Energy Efficient IT Report" with methodology, can be found on CDW-G's site here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .