From the book: Green Technology Strategies

Energy Star Program and Quality Management

This week we cover quality management, to ensure that sustainability is considered as part of performance in the design, development and implementation of ICT products and services. Quality Improvement looks to change a process to improve the reliability of achieving an outcome. Quality Control is carried out to maintain reliability of achieving an outcome. Quality Assurance is used to provide enough confidence that the set requirements for quality are met. Next week, in the last topic we will look at compliance audit to verify that the quality management was successfully applied.

Quality is a very abstract concept. To make it more concrete, the issue of measuring and improving the energy efficiency of desktop computers, servers and data centres equipment is discussed. The most widely recognised standards for ICT energy efficiency are the US EPA's Energy Star Program.

The US government mandated the implementation of Energy Star V4 program in July 2007 under the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). The latest standard is ENERGY STAR Program Requirements for Computers, Version 5.0 (November 14, 2008). EPA is currently developing a specification for enterprise servers. Draft 3 Computer Server Specification is available. Data Center Energy Efficiency is at an earlier stage of standards development, with data on energy use and operating characteristics of existing data centers being collected.

Quality Standards

Two commonly cited quality standards are:

  1. ISO 9004:2000 - Guidelines for performance improvement.
  2. ISO 15504-4: 2005 - Information technology - Process assessment - Part 4: Guidance on use for process improvement and process capability determination.

Quality improvement requires a change to organisation culture. The Kaizen approach, attempts to work within existing cultural boundaries by making small improvements. This is best known in its implementation in the Toyota Production System. With this system staff are encouraged to stop the production line when they detect a problem and come up with improvements with their supervisor. This technique is applicable to many sustainability issues in organisations, where small incremental improvements to processes can reduce energy and materials use.

ISO and SEI Quality standards

The ISO Quality Management System (QMS) standards were released in the late 1980s. This was revised in 2000 as the ISO 9000:2000 series.ISO 9004:2000 gives guidelines for performance improvement and provides a measurement framework for improved quality management.

The standards are to certify the processes of an organization, not a product or service itself. ISO 9000 is often erroneously cited as certifying the quality of the a company product.

Quality management is addressed in: ISO 12207 and ISO 15288 (processes) and ISO 15504 (assessment and improvement).

The Software Engineering Institute has the the CMMi (Capability Maturity Model - integrated), which predates the ISO system and has wide support in the ICT industry.

US EPA's Energy Star Program

Version 5.0 of the ENERGY STAR Specification for Computers takes effect in the USA on July 1, 2009. The European Union and Australia may chose a later date for adoption. The specification covers Desktop PCs, Notebooks and Thin Clients. Some issues remain with the specification:

The Program assumes that manufacturers will self certify their equipment. EPA may also conduct tests on sample products. Manufacturers are expected to physically label qualified computers, or optionally electronically label (such as on a LCD screen when it is powered up), on product packaging and the manufacturer's web site.The EPA also requries annual unit shipment data for determining the market penetration of Energy Star products.


Energy star defines different power and efficiency limits to different categories of computers. Also some components of computers are separately rated. Therefore the definition of types of computers and components are important to the specification:

Computer Types

Operational Modes

The specification sets different power consumption levels for different modes of operation of the types of computers. Earlier versions of the specification only measured power consumption when the computers were not carrying out useful work. Measures when the computer in use are introduced with the new version and a Typical Energy Consumption (TEC) estimating the typical electricity consumed by a product in normal operation over a year.

Internal power supplies for computers are required to be at least 85% efficient at 50% of rated output and 82% efficient at 20% of rated output. It should be noted as a result that, as with data centre provisioning, purchasing computers with excess electrical capacity will reduce efficiency.

The allowed total energy consumption for a year for Desktop computers ranges from 148 to 234 kWh, depending on the category and for Notebooks from 40 to 88.5 kWh. There are adjustments to these for memory, graphics and storage. It should be noted that therefore specifying a higher performance computer than needed could result in higher energy use while still meeting the Energy Star requirements.

Energy Star Program for Computer Servers

The draft ENERGY STAR specification for Computer Servers defines a Computer Server as "A computer that provides services and manages networked resources for client devices, e.g., desktop computers, notebook computers, thin clients, wireless devices, PDAs, IP158 telephones, other Computer Servers and other networked devices. ...". As with the specification for desktop equipment, different Computer Server Types are defined, including Blade Servers and High Availability Servers. Also Other Data Center Equipment, including Network Equipment and Storage Equipment are defined.

As with the desktop specification an emphasis is placed on the efficiency of Computer Server Power Supplies. But only one Operational State is defined for servers: Idle. Unlike desktop equipment which may be left on doing no useful work and so may switch to a low power state, it is generally assumed that servers will be constantly busy (or at least need to be ready at short notice).

The specification uses the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) SPECpower_ssj2008 benchmark, for evaluating the performance of servers. Currently the benchmark cannot be run on Blade Systems. The specification is also limited to servers with up to four processors.


Read now:

  1. ISO 9004:2000 - Guidelines for performance improvement, Wikipedia entry, 2008
  2. ISO 15504-4: 2005 - Information technology - Process assessment - Part 4: Guidance on use for process improvement and process capability determination, Wikipedia entry, 2008
  3. Program Requirements for Computers, ENERGY STAR Version 5.0, US EPA, November 14, 2008.
  4. Computer Server Specification, ENERGY STAR Draft 3, US EPA, 2008.


  1. Describe the Quality Management process of your organisation: Describe the Quality Management process of your organisation, or or an organisation you are familiar with. Is the organisation formally certified under ISO 9001, or some other system? How might such a process be used for furthering Green ICT aims? (maximum three paragraphs).

  2. Matching computer power to the user's needs: Version 5.0 of the ENERGY STAR Specification for Computers sets different power limits for different types of single user computers: Desktop, Integrated Desktop Computer, Thin Client, Notebook, Workstation. Draft a policy for your organisation proposing to lower energy use and costs, by matching the computer to the user's needs. Include an estimate of the energy and cost savings for your organisation over three years (maximum three paragraphs).

  3. Minimise energy use of enterprise servers: The Energy Star Specification for Computer Servers is at an early stage of development. In the absence of a standard, how would you recommend your organisation minimise energy use from enterprise servers? (maximum three paragraphs).

From the book: Green Technology Strategies

This book is about how to reduce carbon emissions and achieve other environmental benefits by using computers and telecommunications technology. It is designed to be used within an online course for professionals, using mentored and collaborative learning techniques.

Title: Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions

Copyright © , 2009

Publisher: Tomw Communications, PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia. Website:

New edition available: ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future, September 2011.

These notes are used for the courses:

  1. Green ICT Strategies (ACS25): offered in the Postgraduate Program of Open Universities Australia and available from 2010 to students of Curtin University, Griffith University, Macquarie University, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University and the University of South Australia,

  2. Green Technology Strategies: offered in the Computer Professional Education Program, Australian Computer Society (first run as "Green ICT Strategies" in February 2009), and

  3. Green Information Technology Strategies (COMP7310), in the Graduate Studies Select program, Australian National University (first run July 2009).

The notes were first published as an electronic and paperback book in 2009 (Green ICT, Tom Worthington, Tomw Communications, 2009). Students can download or print their own copy of the e-book from the course learning management system, which is likely to be more up to date.

Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License, except for institutions covered by a Copyright Agency Ltd Statutory Licence.