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Computer Power Waste Targeted

by Don Clark
Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2007

Google, Intel Drive Effort to Lift Energy Efficiency, Reduce Greenhouse Gases

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Google Inc. and Intel Corp. announced an effort to get computer makers and customers to adopt technologies that reduce energy consumption.

The initiative sets annual targets for reducing power usage on personal computers and server systems. Other supporters include Microsoft Corp., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., International Business Machines Corp., Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., the World Wildlife Fund and the Environmental Protection Agency.

PCs waste about half the power they consume, while computers overall account for about 2% of world-wide energy usage, backers of the effort estimated. If computer users meet the targets, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to supply power for computing uses could drop by 54 million tons a year and save more than $5.5 billion in annual energy costs.

Participants in the program, dubbed the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, must commit to produce systems and components that meet the power-efficiency targets. Corporate customers commit to purchase power-efficient computing products and use software that allows computers to waste less energy.

The Environmental Protection Agency already runs a program called Energy Star, whose initial power-efficiency standards for PCs the new group is using as its base line. That program mainly focuses on PC power supplies, which also are a focus of the new initiative.

Urs Holzle, a Google senior vice president, estimated that most PC power supplies operate at about 65% efficiency. The Energy Star guidelines seek to raise that level to 80% efficiency, but the new initiative sets targets to reach 90% efficiency by 2010, he said.

The new program also focuses on another source of wasted energy in PCs -- components called voltage regulators that are installed on the main circuit board. Though it hasn't spelled out its guidelines, Mr. Holzle estimated the group hopes to drive efficiency of voltage regulators from about 80% to about 95%.

Another focus is getting companies to turn on power-management software on their PCs, which puts desktop computers into a sleep mode to save energy after periods of inactivity.

"This is not a technology problem," said Pat Gelsinger, a senior vice president and general manager of Intel's digital enterprise group. "It is really an industry choice."

The improved hardware comes with an upfront cost -- about $20 more on a PC and $30 more for a server, Mr. Gelsinger estimated. But by getting big U.S. computer users to adopt the technology, and then pushing the concept to other countries, greater manufacturing volumes should reduce that price premium, he said. Along the way, the annual electricity bill for running an average PC could drop from around $40 to below $10, if customers adopt all of the improvements recommended by the group, Mr. Gelsinger said.

Electric utilities also will be encouraged to offer rebates to help subsidize the initial cost of buying more-efficient systems. Besides technology suppliers and users, initial backers of the initiative include the utility PG&E Corp. of San Francisco.

Don Clark
Computer Power Waste Targeted
Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2007

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