Educating ICT Professionals on Energy Efficiency

Tom Worthington FACS HLM

Chair of the Green ICT Group and Director of Professional Development, Australian Computer Society

Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Australian National University

Update, December 2008: Enrolments now open for the first globally accredited Green ICT course.
For the Symposium on Sustainability of the Internet and ICT: November 25 & 26, 2008, The University of Melbourne (Repeated for the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, 11 December 2008)

ICT is both part of the problem and part of the solution to climate change. However, ICT professionals need to be made aware of the contribution of ICT to carbon emissions and training on how technology can reduce those emissions.

A study sponsored by the Australian Computer Society has shown that computers and telecommunications equipment in Australia generated 7.94Mt of carbon dioxide in 2005, 1.52% of national emissions. ICT professionals at the Australian National University set up a special interest group of the ACS to look at the issues and plan future measures. This work and questions about the extent, form and scope of the education and certification of ICT practitioners, in Australia and internationally, are discussed.

Role in the Internet/ICT industry

The Australian National University teaches software engineering, computer science and information systems to Australian and overseas students. The (ACS) sets education standards for its members, and contributes to international ICT professional standards. ACS also assesses skills of prospective migrants and trains newly graduated international ICT students for the Australian Government.

Why sustainability is important

In 2005 the ACS and the Australian Government announced joint funding of research into ethics for ICT professionals, based at the ANU. In 2006 one of the ANU researchers proposed that the ACS should commission a study of ICT's Carbon Footprint in Australia, as the environment was an emerging ethical issue for ICT professionals. The results were released in 2007, showing ICT generated 1.52% of national emissions.

Comparing IT emissions and other industries

... ICT use by Australian Businesses generated 7.94Mt of carbon dioxide in 2005, equivalent to 1.52% of total national carbon dioxide emissions ... comparable in size to ... civil aviation ... 0.97% ...metal production ... 2.3% ... cement industry ... 1%. ...

From: ACS reveals ICT's Carbon Footprint, Media release, 16 August 2007

Quantifying IT emissions

This audit uses a base set of power consumption figures to calculate the demand/usage by each business. These base figures (per device) are then multiplied by the numbers of employees who use ICT equipment (for desktop/workstation computer contribution), server and LAN configuration (for computer network contribution), and telephone handset numbers (for office telephone system contribution) ... Workstation/Personal Computer 300 Watt full power 85 W standby ... Computer Monitor 75 W 5W ... High Performance Server 425 W ...

From: Audit of Carbon Emissions resulting from ICT usage by Australian Business, ACS, 16 August 2007

Current sustainability challenges

ACS issued a Policy Statement for Green ICT in 2007 . This recommended energy savings with Workstation usage , Server virtualisation , Desktop virtualisation , Technology upgrade , Automated Power Control , Offset Programs, Integrated Telephony, and Optimisation of Resource Use. However, these would require new skills from ICT professionals. The needed knowledge would need to be identified, and ways to train existing and new professionals would need to be found.

ACS Policy on Green ICT

US EPA Energy Star Program

The ACS recommended:

  1. Extending the Energy Rating System to ICT equipment for domestic and commercial use
  2. Innovative technologies to reduce power consumption
  3. Carbon offsets to help offset the emissions being produced by ICT equipment used in the office
  4. Virtualisation to replace servers
  5. Disable screen savers and implement ‘sleep mode’ for inactive equipment.


Strategies for sustainability

The ACS formed a ICT Environmental Sustainability Group ("Green ICT") as a special interest group in July 2007, with a committee based at the ANU. This was used foster and gauge the interest of members, other ICT professionals and to build bridges to other professions, such as architecture and engineering.

A series of seminars have been held on sustainability topics, including broadband, architecture, mobile devices. The ANU hosted one of the National 2020 Summit, local summits on the topic of open and sustainable technologies.

In July 2008 the ACS and the Queensland ICT Industry launched a Green IT Taskforce. The taskforce is aiming to beyond awareness raising and introduce certification of ICT professionals in sustainability and their role in mandatory standards.

Carbon Neutral Computers?



Computer makers are issuing claims as to the green credentials of their products and Australian Government agencies are now requests for tender including complex sustainability criteria. How are ICT professionals to be trained to assess such claims and evaluate these criteria?

Challenges of ICT Education.

  1. Where does sustainability fit in ICT education?
  2. Is this a specialization?
  3. How much for universities/TAFEs or professional development?
  4. Undergraduate or postgraduate?
  5. Is energy efficiency the priority or broader sustainability?
  6. How will the body of knowledge be developed?

Where does sustainability fit into the education of ICT professionals? Is this a specialization? How much should universities be required to teach undergraduates? Is energy efficiency the priority or should broader sustainability issues be covered as well? Are sustainability postgraduate qualifications in ICT viable? How will the body of knowledge be developed?

Responses to ICT Education.

  1. Sustainable IT Lecture Series
  2. ICT Sustainability at Petersham NSW TAFE
  3. ACS Green ICT Strategies e-Learning Course

Sustainable IT Lecture Series

The Natural Edge Project
  1. Drivers and Benefits of Sustainable IT
  2. Product Service Systems and the Product Cycle
  3. Client Equipment
  4. Data Centres and HP Case Study
  5. Roadmap and Success of Sustainable IT
  6. References

From: Sustainable IT Lecture Series, TNEP, 2008

The Natural Edge Project, an Australian based independent Sustainability Think-Tank, has produced the Sustainable IT Lecture Series. This is a free education package for training ICT professionals in sustainability. The package focuses on energy efficiency and draws on case studies of real world energy saving projects.

  1. Drivers and Benefits of Sustainable IT: The aim of this lecture is to discuss the drivers and benefits of Sustainable IT, particularly for the customer. Drivers and benefits range through business, economic, environmental and legislative domains.
  2. Product Service Systems and the Product Cycle: The aim of this lecture is to discuss product service systems, their barriers and lessons from past implementations, as well as the opportunities to reduce energy and materials consumption in packaging and equipment through end-of-life processing.
  3. Client Equipment: The aim of this lecture is to discuss a four-step process for reducing energy consumption, materials consumption and materials toxicity in client equipment.
  4. Data Centres and HP Case Study: The aim of this lecture is to discuss a seven-step process for reducing energy consumption in data centres and to present a Sustainable IT case study of IT vendor HP.
  5. Roadmap and Success of Sustainable IT: The aim of this lecture is to discuss the strategies, activities and actions upon which customers and vendors should focus in order to successfully transition to, maintain and promote their Sustainable IT solutions at the organisation and industry level.
  6. References: This document contains the full citations for the references in the Lecture documents.

Adapted from: Sustainable IT Lecture Series, "Sustainable IT: Reducing Carbon Footprint and Materials Waste in the IT Environment", The Natural Edge Project, 2008

Most of the examples are from the project sponsor HP, and focus on the company's methodologies for energy reduction (but this is not just some company greenwash). The material is suitable for use in tertiary education for ICT practitioners, engineering and related disciplines. The lecture notes would also be useful for self study by practitioners interested in learning about energy saving techniques. The material is available free for educational use via an open access licence.

Sustainability at NSW TAFE

  1. Modules for 2009:
    1. Install and Test Power Saving Hardware
    2. Install and Test Power Management Software
    3. Install and Test Renewable Energy System for ICT Networks
    4. Implement Server Virtualisation for a sustainable ICT System
    5. Install and Test Web 2.0 OS and Applications on a Low Powered Workstation Fed by Power Over Ethernet
  2. Developed from projects by students at Petersham NSW TAFE in 2007/2008

The Australian Computer Society hosted a presentation from TAFE NSW 17 November 2008 on their new ICT sustainability courses. Five new modules are to be offered in 2009, based on projects undertaken by students at Petersham Campus of NSW TAFE.

  1. Install and Test Power Saving Hardware
  2. Install and Test Power Management Software
  3. Install and Test Renewable Energy System for ICT Networks
  4. Implement Server Virtualisation for a sustainable ICT System
  5. Install and Test Web 2.0 OS and Applications on a Low Powered Workstation Fed by Power Over Ethernet

The courses have a practical emphasis, with students working on PCs replacing components with lower power ones, including low power motherboards and flash drives. The students may also install solar panels and a wind generators and modify PCs to run from batteries.

As well as hardware, the students learn about using software utilities to configure energy saving settings on PCs. They also learn how to virtualise servers, including the complexities of running both Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems simultaneously on the one server.

The courses have already provided some of the very valuable practical insights into Green ICT, such as

  1. Via PC3500 Mainboard: After searching the options for low power components, the students of the TAFE course identified the new VIA board as being a good trade off between power consumption and usability. It remains an open question as to if it is worth upgrading conventional desktop PCs with low power boards, or better to replace them with a small form factor NetTops.
  2. Power Management Tools, such as LocalCooling can be useful for teaching about power saving as well as implementing it.
  3. ROI: The return on investment for power saving software and hardware upgrades can be calculated.
  4. Learning by Doing: Students can learn by carrying out work such as upgrading PCs and explaining what they are doing while working in teams.

Some links from the TAFE:

  1. Sustainability Project Presentation 2nd July 2008
  2. Certificate IV in IT Semester 2 2007: Virtual Server Implementation
  3. and Case Study - Low energy desktop system Patjarr School
  4. Certificate IV in IT Semester 1 2008: low energy desktop design considerations and Operating system on USB flash drive
  5. Ubuntu server with renewable energy system supply - design.ppt
  6. Diploma in IT Semester 1 2008: Solar Panel and Wind Generator
  7. Solar Panel Installation and System Testing Presentation: Low Energy Consumption PC Cary

ACS Green ICT Strategies e-Learning Course.

  1. Part of the ACS CPe Program
  2. Globally accredited and aligned with SFIA
  3. postgraduate management unit
  4. 130 hours of e-learning
  5. Commences January 2009
  6. Prepared online as free open access

The Australian Computer Society is preparing a course on Green ICT Strategies for Computer Professional Education Program. This program has been accredited globally for training ICT professionals internationally and is aligned with the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA).

The course content is being Prepared online as free open access. For progress see blog entries. It may also be offered at the ANU as a "flexible" blended course, combining e-leaning and classroom work.

There is potential for collaboration between the university and vocational sectors on green ICT courses. University postgraduate management units and will not get into the level of technical and practical detail which the TAFE provides. Some professionals will want to undertake the TAFE courses, while others just need to know that they can call on people with those skills.

More Information

Slides for these notes are also available.

Copyright © 2008 (Version 1.1, 19 November 2008) Tom Worthington

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Educating ICT Professionals on Energy Efficiency by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License.
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