Worried about carbon regs yet? You should be

With the EPA empowered to regulate GHGs and required carbon reporting pending, green tech will raise its whip in 2010

The U.S. government dropped a bombshell announcement this week, impeccably timed with the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen: Carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses (GHGs) pose a hazard to human health, and the EPA has the authority to regulate them. Couple that with the fact that President Obama himself is attending the conference and the message should be crystal clear -- the U.S. government is taking the dangers posed by GHGs seriously, and organizations had best prepare for regulation now.

Thus, it should come as little surprise that research organization IDC predicts 2010 will be a big year for sustainable IT as companies struggle with ways to measure, report, and reduce their carbon footprints -- and not optionally. Per IDC, "in 2010, all G20 nations will mandate companies to report on their carbon footprints. Sustainable IT will help address both of those challenges."

[ Read about IDC's other technology predictions for 2010. | Learn why carbon regulations will drive datacenter outsourcing and cloud computing. ]

The datacenter will continue to be a prime target for sustainable IT implementations. Datacenter operators already have to cope with the expected surge in demand for cloud computing (which IDC predicts will expand and mature in 2010) and the associated data explosion, all of which translate to the need for higher capacity. Throwing hardware at the problem to sate service demands is neither a sensible nor a sustainable solution, given that datacenter floor space is finite and that energy prices -- particularly in regions where utilities rely on dirty fuels such as coal -- are going to soar skyward. Add to the mix regulatory pressure to cut carbon emissions, and you have a recipe for increased investment in sustainable IT in the datacenter.

Those investments will run the gamut, from the low-hanging fruit such as setting up hot and cold aisles, adjusting temperature settings, and plugging leaks, to more advanced solutions such as more energy-efficient IT hardware; server and storage virtualization to wring higher utilization from existing machines; sensors and mapping tools to pinpoint airflow anomalies; software for assessing precisely how much work a given server is doing; and tools for capping server-power consumption.

In the office, meanwhile, I expect more organizations will adopt energy-saving IT solutions -- most importantly, PC power management software. These solutions are among the easiest to implement, and the associated ROI is pretty simple to measure, translating to an average savings of around 440 pounds of CO2 emissions and $50 per PC per year per machine (a figure that would increase were energy prices to go up).

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