How many greens does it take to change an IT strategy? Does your finance director break out in a cold sweat because of the electricity cost to power your organisation’s IT? If he doesn’t now, chances are he will. Got your carbon budget worked out for next year? Got any five-year projects? Making any investments stretching beyond 2008?

If so, you’d do well to read the draft Climate Change Bill, published March 2007. It is 179 pages long. Go ahead, knock yourself out. I know I did. It a gripping read, packed with ‘five-year carbon budgets’, ‘carbon credits’, ‘carbon trading’ and ‘auction systems’.

The green dollar

All over the country vendor sales team are meeting with excited sales directors fist pumping over the lean, green money machine “It’s not about performance any more it’s about reduced carbon performance,” they shout. Just as the food industry wants us to continue eating processed crap by telling us it has reduced fat/salt/taste, so the IT industry will line up and tell us that lower emissions can be achieved for only a slight reduction in functionality at a slightly higher cost – thin clients again, anyone?

But apart from vendors pushing their low emission credentials what impact will this bill have on IT, if and when it becomes law? The draft says the bill will take into consideration economic, fiscal and social circumstances. We can probably expect IT to be singled out.

How many datacentres do you run? How many servers and desktops? Does your datacentre use the latest energy saving technology? How many watts does your IT use? What are you doing to offset your IT-related carbon emissions?

Will IT have to justify its carbon footprint? Statisticians say the amount of energy used by servers has doubled since 2005 and will double again by 2010. This is, of course, because there are twice as many. And it is not just about being green. Just as the value of the information on a piece of hardware often outstrips the cost of the hardware, so the cost of powering the device over its lifetime will often outstrip the capital cost. Globally, datacentres ran up a $7.2 billion electricity bill last year. So apart from encouraging more home working, what can you, Mr CIO, do to reduce your power consumption?

The business environment

The short term reality is that the best you can hope for is to tick some boxes that say server and storage virtualisation, refresh to dual core processors, and, er, videoconferencing technology. Longer term could it be that you’ll actually stay awake during sales pitches from UPS manufacturers and rack suppliers as they talk about heat exchange and hydrogen cell back up?

You’ll have to because you’ll no longer be measured on IT uptime but IT carbon neutral uptime. Meantime you might also want to sign up to, or at least keep an eye on, what the green grid gets up to. Or for those interested in happenings closer to home, The Green Technology Initiative is a new UK green issues talking shop.

Will technology be able to save us all? Perhaps, but it won’t be information technology. Could IT use less energy? Certainly. Will it be because of the Climate Change Bill? Almost certainly not. It will be because it costs less to use less electricity. But as with all compliance, the bill will make it complicated, time consuming and costly.

There is lots of talk about balancing the business impact with environmental priorities. It will do almost nothing to affect the global environment but it’s good politics and hey, say the greens, we have to do something. Depressingly, the answer to the opening question is, it would appear just one and his name is David Miliband. But you have until 12 June 2007 to let him know what you think of the way he’s going about it. The response form is here.

And turn off that computer before you go home.