Energy saving initiative

Microsoft the nonprofit Climate savers Computing initiative and a start up called Verdiem are combing to put the spotlight on the energy saving opportunity in PCs and distributing a free software tool to consumers to help them do it.

In its a drive to go green, the technology industry has so far focused mainly on big targets like corporations and especially computer data centers the power-hungry computing engine rooms of the internet economy.

Next come the hundreds of millions of desktop and lapping personal computers in households worldwide.

Microsoft, the nonprofit Climate Savers Computing Initiative and a start up called Verdiem are combining to put a spotlight on the energy saving opportunity in PCs, and distributing a free software tool to consumers to help them do it.

The potential savings in both dollars and pollution is huge, analysts say, when the estimated one billion PCs in use globally are taken into account. The research firm Gartner estimates that 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions resulting from information technology and telecommunications are attributable to PCs. Data center computers account for 23% and the rest is attributable to printers and telecommunications equipment.

If you are going to tackle climate change and curb energy use, you have to deal with consumer devices like PCs which promote energy efficient products and practices.

For more than a decade the federal Energy Star program has developed voluntary power-management standards for PCs, and suppliers like Intel and Microsoft have steadily improved the energy efficiency of their chips and software. But it is estimated that less than half of PCs met those standards, in part because more energy efficient hardware adds slightly to production costs.

The free software, called Edison is a consumer version of the PC energy saving software sold to corporate customers by Verdiem.

Verdiem based in Seattle, has 180 corporate and government customers, including Hewlett-Packard, which bundles Verdiem’s Surveyor program on is desk top PCs sold to corporation. Though sales figures are not disclosed, the company’s chief executive says revenue should triple this year.

There are other free tools for calculating and managing PC power consumption, including the EPA’s EZ Wizard, CO2 Saver and a Google energy-saving gadget. But Edison allows the user more flexibility especially in making the settings as stringent as they want.

If a user sets the software to put the machine in a deep sleep mode after a few minutes of not hitting a keystroke the hard drive powers down and the PC sips just 5% of its normal energy consumption. That kind of energy diet is far from standard practice in homes and offices. Half of all electricity consumed by a standard PC is wasted according to environmental and industry studies.

In addition to the above already energy-efficient, compact fluorescent lights are now being made eco-friendly too by applying stringent EU norms. In an effort to make the energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) even more better and eco-friendly, manufacturers are adopting latest European norms on restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS).

Currently, most CFL manufacturers worldwide use liquid mercury due to its cost effectiveness and simple technology. The disadvantage is that, technically, it is extremely difficult to limit the weight of liquid mercury, something that is extremely toxic in nature. In fact, the average CFL contains at least 3-5 times more liquid mercury than that prescribed by global or even Indian norms.

Now, CFL manufacturers are going in for ‘pill-dosing technology’, which uses an amalgamated mercury pill that is less harmful to the environment as compared to the conventional use of liquid mercury.

These pills also conform to the domestic and international standards o the use of mercury in CFLs. In India, Delhi-based Havells is one of the few firms at the forefront of his endeavor converting all three of its assembly lines to the latest technology.

The step couldn’t have come at a better time as, globally demand for CFLs is about to explode due to global warming issues and many countries increasingly phasing out GLS lamps. This would be significant as lighting consumes about 20 percent of electricity in India, and experts say a switch to CFL will help, for it uses only a fifth of the power of traditional bulbs for similar lighting. So making them eco-friendly would be an added advantage.