Monday, June 13, 2011

Middle East CIOs and IT managers have to rise to carbon challenge

DUBAI, UAE: Increasing awareness of climate change and concern for the environment, has put a variety of countries and industries into the spotlight and forced them to review their environmental credentials. Various research papers have shown a strong link between carbon emissions and global warming.

The world's four worst offenders in terms of per capita carbon emissions relative to per capita income are: Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Qatar has more than three times the per capita CO2 emissions as the U.S., and Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates emit almost twice the CO2 per capita as America. Saudi Arabia emits CO2 at near the U.S. level per capita.

Ali Ahmar, regional sales manager, MENA for Brocade Communications says that the Middle East needs to seriously consider implementing regulations like in Europe.
In 2005, the European Union (EU) introduced the concept of an Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) – which is the largest multi-national, emissions trading scheme in the world and a major pillar of the EU’s climate policy.

As part of the EU ETS, large emitters of carbon dioxide within the EU must monitor and annually report their CO2 emissions. Companies are then required to buy permits for each metric ton of carbon they emit, with the amount of carbon output capped and lowered each year.

The EU ETS is primarily aimed at energy-intensive organizations, while less energy ‘hungry’ industries are left unaffected. So the UK introduced the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), renamed the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme in April 2010, which is a mandatory cap and trade scheme that will apply to non energy intensive organizations in the public and private sectors. It is anticipated that the scheme will cut carbon emissions by 1.2 million tonnes of carbon per year by 2020.

The Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence (DCCE) recently commenced operations in April this year and this is a good start for the Middle East. DCCE will focus on opportunities created by global carbon-emission reduction projects, while simultaneously working to stimulate a carbon-efficient economy in Dubai by developing carbon incentives for the Emirate’s society, businesses and the public sector. Other countries in the region should now follow suit.

IT – a major culprit
The rapidly growing carbon footprint associated with information and communications technologies, including laptops and PCs, data centers and computing networks, mobile phones, and telecommunications networks, could make them among the biggest greenhouse gas emitters by 2020, according to research firm McKinsey. The Global IT sector today accounts for between two and three percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, with around a quarter of that percentage made up by CO2 emissions from data centres[1]. For most service sectors, data centers are a business’s number-one source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Data center – a good starting place
For organisations looking to be greener, the data centre is therefore the most obvious place to start. Companies across the Middle East are now paying more attention to Green IT as a direct result of the cost savings which can be realised from implementing such a strategy. Companies can double the energy efficiency of their data centers through more disciplined management, reducing both costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Although energy-saving opportunities in data centers are widespread, and can reap considerable cost savings, implementation costs and other barriers often impede their adoption. Despite the rising cost of electricity and the relatively large share of data center costs represented by energy expenses, data center energy costs still remain a relatively small portion of overall company costs for most data center clients, especially those with small and medium sized data centers. Compounding the problem is that most data center managers never see the energy bill for their facilities and their performance is not based on energy costs.

In terms of business benefit, being able to reduce the running costs of storage is a no-brainer, but it’s something that is not being done. According to industry research undertaken by Brocade Communications, senior IT decision-makers acknowledge that energy inefficiency is a key issue in their organisations, believing that their companies spend a significant portion of their overall operational expenditures (OpEx) on energy costs. Overall, more than half of EMEA technology leaders said that they felt under pressure to cut costs and reduce power consumption. However, 50 percent felt powerless to impose reductions, as energy budgets were not their responsibility.

Building energy-efficient data centers offers the best hope of reducing their cost and carbon footprint. Facilities could take advantage of current technologies that make use of natural cooling and of power supplies that produce fewer emissions. The most dramatic reductions in cost and carbon emissions come from improving the operational efficiency of data centers, which at the moment are running at a very low level.

Through better management of assets, more accountable management, and setting clear goals for reducing energy costs and carbon emissions, companies can greatly enhance IT energy efficiency and halt the growth of their data centers’ greenhouse gas emissions. And thus contribute to making the world a better place!

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