There are compelling ethical, regulatory and financial reasons to reduce energy consumption. The computing services (OUCS) department offers a number of services that we hope will help departments and colleges use energy more efficiency and the University deliver its Carbon Management Strategy, (see pp iv-v for the graphic below):

The trend in the University’s scope one and two CO2 emissions since
                        1990/1, using data from three years: 1990/1, 2005/6 and 2008/9. The figure
                        also shows the Low Growth Business as Usual projection (76,885tCO2 in 2020),
                        the necessary trends to achieve the 2020/1 sectoral target from HEFCE (43%
                        below 2005/6 by 2020, or 37,609tCO2) and the University’s chosen 2020 target
                        of 33% below 2005/6 (44,152tCO2), ‘the ‘Preferred Carbon Management
                        Scenario’. The Business as Usual emissions are lower in 2020 than in 2008/9
                        due to the use of a lower emissions factor for electricity, which outweighs
                        the fact that the projected electricity consumption in 2020 is 24% higher
                        than for 2008/9.
Figure 1. The trend in the University’s scope one and two CO2 emissions since 1990/1, using data from three years: 1990/1, 2005/6 and 2008/9. The figure also shows the Low Growth Business as Usual projection (76,885tCO2 in 2020), the necessary trends to achieve the 2020/1 sectoral target from HEFCE (43% below 2005/6 by 2020, or 37,609tCO2) and the University’s chosen 2020 target of 33% below 2005/6 (44,152tCO2), ‘the ‘Preferred Carbon Management Scenario’. The Business as Usual emissions are lower in 2020 than in 2008/9 due to the use of a lower emissions factor for electricity, which outweighs the fact that the projected electricity consumption in 2020 is 24% higher than for 2008/9.

1. Helping to monitor and power down idle office computers

Key points:
  • A typical desktop computer and monitor will consume about 920 kWh of electricity if left on all year, but only 190 kWh if powered down overnight, weekends and holidays. This currently (2009) equates to an annual saving of £86 and 392 kg CO2eq. per computer. We estimate at least 8000 computers across the collegiate University are left on all the time unnecessarily. With a robust approach to power management there is a potential annual saving of £690,000 and 3,100 tonnes CO2eq. (At least 90% of the 12,000 undergraduates bring a laptop to the University but we do not know how these, and other portable computing devices are managed).
  • The University of Oxford has set greenhouse gas emission targets for 2010, 2020 and 2050. From April 2010 the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme will require the University to report and pay for greenhouse gas emissions. The data will be used to place the University in a performance league table which will be published annually. From 2011, the HEFCE Carbon Management Strategy states capital allocations will be linked to carbon reduction. Higher education institutions (HEIs) in England are required to develop individual carbon reduction strategies, targets and associated carbon management plans.
  • OUCS, OeRC, OUCE and Estates have developed power management monitoring (PMM) and wake on LAN (WOL) facilities to help units implement their own green desktop computing initiatives. To use these facilities OUCS must install FiDo software on the local IT network. There are also a wide range of commercial solutions available and several groups have found it cost-effective to develop their own in-house solutions.

Read more about how OUCS can help you implement a green desktop computing initiative.

2. Using communication technologies instead of travel

Telecommunication technologies can be used instead of traveling to a meeting. The 'richness' of the communication experience can vary from using high-bandwidth video-conferencing facilities to simple online text-based chat.

The OUCS WebEx service which provides facilities to share presentations, a whiteboard, applications and even the whole desktop. Participants can also see each other using webcams. WebEx has been used in the University to run interviews and meetings that would otherwise involve international travel.

Travel will be accounted for under scope 3 emissions reporting.

3. Consolidating servers into the Oxford shared data centre (OSDC)

Oxford has built a data centre that implements the principles outlined in the Oxford central machine room design report. It can be used to house servers or applications by any department or college in the University. We will report the PUE and other metrics on a continuous basis.

Electricity use and heat re-capture from the data centre will be accounted for under scope 1 and 2 emissions reporting.

4. Extending the life-cycle of digital equipment

The WEEE man sculpture at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
Figure 2. The WEEE man sculpture.

Research findings differ but it seems fair to assume that at least half of the environmental footprint associated with IT equipment comes from the manufacturing, assembly, transportation, recycling and disposal phases of the life-cycle.

Innovation has lead to manufacturers using fewer parts, more sustainable materials, more efficient assembly plants, building devices that can be recycled more easily and disposed of more cleanly, but there is still a significant gain to be made by reducing our demand for new digital equipment.

One way to achieve this is by repairing devices rather then buying new. OUCS provides the Computer Hardware Breakdown Service and Hardware Repair and Upgrade services as cost-effective ways to fix computers rather than throw them away.

Like other units OUCS also recycles and donates computers it can no longer make use of.

IT Waste management is regulated through the WEEE Directive and accounted for under scope 3 emissions reporting.

5. Making energy meter data more accessible (beta service!)

The University has over a thousand electricity and gas meters installed. We are working hard to make this data available so that it can be analysed and reported on in a wide range of ways. Our goal is to provide a tool that will help bursars work with staff and students to improve energy efficiency.

We are making meter data available in a new service called data.ox.ac.uk. We will provide training, online support and dashboard-like web interfaces so that groups can use social media (and more traditional off line modes of interaction) to run energy efficiency initiatives. Our overall aim is to help people learn and act to reduce their environmental footprints.