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Power Earth IT

Companies Waste $2.8 Billion Per Year Powering Unused PCs 348

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-let-it-run dept.
snydeq writes "Unused PCs — computers that are powered on but not in use — are expected to emit approximately 20 million tons of CO2 this year, roughly equivalent to the impact of 4 million cars, according to report by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy. All told, US organizations will waste $2.8 billion to power 108 million unused machines this year. The notion that power used turning on PCs negates any benefits of turning them off has been discussed recently as one of five PC power myths. By turning off unused machines and practicing proper PC power management, companies stand to save more than $36 per desktop PC per year."
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Companies Waste $2.8 Billion Per Year Powering Unused PCs

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  • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @03:53AM (#27339403) Homepage

    I think the fundamental problem is that in the West, energy (specifically watts-hours of electricity in this case) have been so cheap in the last few decades as to be effectively free. This is changing now through worldwide recession and the depletion of the easy-to-get fossil fuel. Once electricity prices start seriously ramping up (which they inevitably will), companies will be giving their utility bills a lot more scrutiny.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 26, 2009 @03:53AM (#27339405)

    So, they can save the cost of a half hour of my salary, by having me spend 10 minutes each day starting up and shutting down my computer?

  • Productivity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @03:55AM (#27339409) Homepage

    I could lose $36 worth of productivity in a few days. My desktop and servers stay ON.

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @03:57AM (#27339413)
    You're forgetting that the method of environmentalists is to always assume the worst, then multiply that until it's newsworthy. Then claim it's 'scientific evidence' just because somebody made a computer model with values that don't actually exist.
  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by philipgar (595691) <pcg2NO@SPAMlehigh.edu> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:10AM (#27339469) Homepage
    Actually, even the ones powered by coal are likely not wasting much CO2. Considering a machine is most likely to be sitting idle at night, and that the coal plants have to operate 24/7 (they can't dynamically lower their power output, that's provided by secondary sources during the afternoon). Power usage generally peaks in the afternoon, and so other power generation stations (those like natural gas that can be brought online quickly) handle the peak load, but, as coal power is cheaper, they try to get as much as possible from the coal. If the base load provided by the coal is greater than the power being consumed, than any additional power demanded isn't really "wasting" electricity. It's just using electricity that has already been generated. Of course, if this amount is great enough to change the power plants operating conditions, it does matter, and as far as the businesses are concerned, this power does cost money, and quite a bit of it.

    However, saying the plant is releasing more CO2 for these computers is generally not true.

    Phil
  • Screensavers & ET (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:26AM (#27339539)

    Can everyone please turn off their fucking screensavers and just configure your screen to blank out, your monitor to shut off, and suspend the computer if you can too?

    Hey geniuses-- there's no point to having your CPU heat up the planet when you create CO2 to run the AC to cool down a room heated by a CPU which is burning fossil fuels to show some stunning complex 3d imagery to absolutely no one in an empty fucking room.

    Thanks.

    (Oh, and by the way-- SETI@Home is a bullshit waste of time too. It's not like the rest of us are burning vats of gasoline in our backyards to summon unicorns, so please don't fuck up my planet with your random wild-stab-in-the-dark geektard fantasies either. Let's do the math. Odds of SETI@Home finding ET: Who the fuck knows? Odds of SETI@HOME helping to fuck up planet: 100%. Stop it.)

  • by tygerstripes (832644) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:42AM (#27339613)

    This doesn't take into account the vast, vast amount of time, energy and resources wasted by people who don't know how to use the fucking things properly in the first place. Let's start there before we get to titivating with power-management.

    I've lost count of the number of times I've had to show people how to do the simplest things, to save them hours of wasted effort each week. This usually leads to me writing explicit instructions and disseminating to those concerned but, ultimately, people just don't care (and I have trained people for a living with notable success, so it's not a "techie-personality pissing people off" thing).

    Power-management? How about education. If every office-worker were to spend one day a year going through their daily grind with someone sat beside them who knows how to use their PC's potential (and how to explain it), productivity would double. I'm not just slagging off my luddite colleagues here; I know there are things I could do better, and would genuinely welcome the attention of someone who could show me how.

    Sorry to vent my frustrations here, but it's that or do it at work. To put it bluntly: nice study, but frankly you're just pissing in the ocean.

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @04:43AM (#27339621)

    PCs (or any other things) aren't connected to a specific power source. They're connected to a power grid.

    (No whoosh for you.) So how is being connected to a CO2-emitting power source the computers' fault then?

  • Re:Productivity (Score:2, Insightful)

    by worip (1463581) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @05:01AM (#27339715)
    No, because logging on, firing up applications and development environments, opening any projects/files that you are working on takes time. Say conservatively 10 mins per day. That is 50 mins per work week. That is almost an hour of my time a week - already exceeding the cost of the energy (depending on your hourly rate of course).
  • by daem0n1x (748565) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @05:22AM (#27339783)

    It has nothing to do with loving your company. What people don't realize often is that wasting company resources affects those who work in it.

    If the employees are wasting too much power, the money to pay for them won't be taken from shareholder dividends or executive incentives. It will come from salaries.

    So, it's not about loving the company. Don't waste company resources because, in the end, it's YOU who pays the bill.

    Besides, also think about the impact of waste on the environment.

  • Re:Productivity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FridgeFreezer (1352537) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @05:26AM (#27339801)
    Yes and no, true thermal cycling does cause marginal components to fail but by leaving the thing on all the time rather than the half of the day you're actually using it you're halving the "useful" life of the thing anyway.

    There is a balance between leaving it on 100% of the time and switching everything on and off every time you walk from your desk to the coffee machine and back.

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:00AM (#27339947) Journal

    Umm you forgot that along with "scientific evidence", they also claim the consensus is in and the science is settled so if you question it, you either hate people or work for an oil company.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:11AM (#27339999)
    Don't be so naive. You save the company money, you won't see a dime. Shareholder dividends and executive incentives expand to fill the available budget.
  • Re:Dumb Terminals (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:25AM (#27340077) Homepage Journal

    It's sad that it's so easy to come up with ways to save power, but so few places and people actually implement them. I even have a colleague who refuses to turn off his computer, because "a 100 W more or less doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things". He's right about that, of course, but what he and many others don't realize is that doing the little things can actually affect the grand scheme of things. I, for example, use less than half as much electricity as the average household around me, simply because I use energy-efficient products and turn off most things when I'm not using them. It's not a lot of trouble, but if everybody did it, we could easily halve the power consumed by households!

  • by smchris (464899) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:30AM (#27340099)

    When my wife bangs her mouse around at home complaining it takes so long for the "screensaver" to give back her desktop. Clearly, the place she works hasn't set any power saving on their machines or she would know what is going on. I believe with about 500 employees at their peak last year, maybe they could have fired a couple fewer on their recent rounds of layoffs if they had actually used power saving.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:49AM (#27340195)

    So you're the exception. Hooray! Seriously, what's wrong with a receptionist turning off their computer that's used for email & a spreadsheet or two at night?

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @06:53AM (#27340217)

    Exactly. Environmentalism will get more traction if they are honest about their data. We as a general population are use to hearing the doom conditions, as people are trying to push their agenda. So they do their computer models and give the results of the 4th standard deviation of the results.

    The more truth is the fact if we reduce our power consumptions for the long term then the power companies can lower their output, as there is less demand. However the fact that your PC is on last night doesn't mean you PC is the cause of so much Carbon in the air. As it would still be there if you turn it off.

  • Re:Compulsory miss (Score:4, Insightful)

    by paskie (539112) <pasky@ u c w.cz> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:00AM (#27340269) Homepage
    So set up a RTC wake-up to 15 minutes before you usually turn up at work? Go make a coffee in the meantime?
  • Re:Productivity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lauwersw (727284) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:08AM (#27340321)
    Don't tell us you're reading /. from home, we don't believe you. That will cost you at least 10 minutes a day as well...
  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Velska1 (1435341) <velskasblog@gmail.com> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:12AM (#27340343) Journal

    Dude, you can shut down a PC at night, and get it running in the morning.

    You can not, however, do the same thing with a power plant. It takes much longer to cycle up.

    Anyhow, what we would need is a lot of high-efficiency photovoltaic panels, that would create the most power exactly when you have peak demand in the areas where solar is viable to begin with.

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PianoComp81 (589011) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:16AM (#27340379)

    What about the computers that are powered by a nuclear reactor?

    It's still wasting company money. Who cares about how much CO2 is put out when really all the company really cares about is how much money they're wasting? For that matter, if we turned our computers off at home, we'd save money on our own bills. I know my power bill would probably be $20-$30 less if I turned my computer off when it wasn't in use.

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GauteL (29207) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:24AM (#27340445)

    You are missing the point completely. The point is that if most businesses started switching off their computers at night, the power companies would most likely change their operating conditions.

    It might make it less economically viable to maintain such a high base load during the night, meaning it becomes more profitable to shift some of the power production on the sources with a shorter power up/down cycle.

    Educating companies about how much money they are wasting is likely to be far more effective than asking them to be green for the environment.

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter (624760) * on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:35AM (#27340499) Journal
    Deliberate misinformation and hyperbole is now insightfull???
  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ahankinson (1249646) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:51AM (#27340617)

    Exactly! Like how Neo-Cons will get more adherents if only they used more facts.

    Not everybody is driven by science or data. In fact, for a lot of people, putting numbers like this in front of them is the only way that they'll understand that they have an impact on the environment, whether it's empirically true or not.

  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @07:57AM (#27340661)

    I'd say there's a good chance the computers will be obsolete before they fail. 3-4 years is nothing, if your computers fail that fast you should probably look into another vendor.

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @08:11AM (#27340761)

    Well there where always be a group of people that you will not convince. However if you are going to get the general population, I think responsible environmentalism is the key.

  • Re:Dumb Terminals (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @09:02AM (#27341469) Homepage

    He's right about that, of course, but what he and many others don't realize is that doing the little things can actually affect the grand scheme of things.

    Why do you think so many people on the right ridiculed Obama when he stated that part of his energy plan was to get people using more efficient lighting?

    Simply put: people are stupid. No, really stupid. And so they don't understand the large aggregate effect you get from a lot of small changes.

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @09:02AM (#27341471)
    You do realize there are consequences from getting your power from nuclear reactors and then wasting it, don't you?

    Higher load means more reactors may need to be built, it generates more radioactive waste, heats up more water, raises the risk of accident, etc.

    And since you are using nuclear fuel that much faster, more has to be mined and refined which adds to CO2 loading, chemical and radioactive chemical waste streams.

    In addition, since the country is on a grid and utilities can flow excess capability into neighboring regions, you reduce that excess capability and therefore increase the amount of CO2 that some coal or natural gas-fired plant generates.

    There are consequences for everything.

    And sure, your computer or two doesn't make much of a contribution, but the more people that feel like you and also waste power adds up. That is the attitude that got us where we are now.
  • Re:Dumb Terminals (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bongo (13261) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @09:32AM (#27341883)

    if everybody did it, we could easily halve the power consumed by households!

    I agree with you if you look at it that way. But our world is far more varied and complex, and not everyone is like you. My carbon footprint happens to be tiny (one room apartment, never owned a car, work locally, haven't flown anywhere in 10 years, no kids.) But all those things are for other reasons. Try to change people so that they make a real noticeable savings in energy, like we can start turning off power stations, and it becomes very very tricky. It is like we think we are the first generation to ever think about conservation, when actually every generation has had to deal with supply problems for resources, and the world we have today is the best that they could achieve. Turning off a few things is obviously to a lot of people just a symbolic gesture. Like now they charge for carrier bags at the supermarket to encourage people to reuse the bags. I was already re-using the bags for trash and now that they charge for them, I have to buy trash bags instead. Actual saving: zero. Except the supermarket gets to waffle on about the environment and their "green" image.
    I was taught in Building Science that yeah, you could send people all round the county installing insulation, but the energy used sending all those trucks around, and the cost, would not be regained for 50 years (or something on that order) given what the insulation actually saved.
    Technological progress is what has taken us forward, and that's not going to change. We need technology more than ever now, in order to lighten our footprint. Reducing consumption simply leads in the end back to more primitive technologies, which are more environmentally harmful. In the meantime please do enjoy your savings on the electricity bill as I do mine.

  • Re:Same here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pope (17780) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @10:33AM (#27342855)

    That seems incredibly excessive. The entire system in Stanby mode after 5 minutes, what exactly is the point? I could see going to Standby after an hour or so, but full on Hibernate in 15 is just ridiculous. The energy savings would be minimal at best, and the annoynce at having to wait for the system to come back into a usable state would be far greater.

  • Re:Magic smoke (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday March 26, 2009 @02:33PM (#27346597) Homepage Journal

    You need to balance that against time lost waiting for boot up and shut down.
    a minute of a workers time is a lot more expensive then a minute of power.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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