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Energy innovation: Increasing efficiencies across the enterprise

This episode of Technology Untangled looks at strategies and innovations aimed at increasing energy efficiencies across enterprise facilities.

Governments around the world are getting serious about climate change and laying out some tough environmental targets. In the U.S., the Biden administration has pledged to cut emissions by more than 50 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, and the U.K. has pledged a 78 percent reduction by 2035, says Michael Bird, host of this episode of Technology Untangled.

Please listen to: AI and sustainability: The most important tech challenges of 2021

How will we get there? It will take a collective effort to find answers to today's energy challenges, says John Frey, chief technologist for sustainable transformation at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. And a big part of that begins in the enterprise, he says, where business and IT leaders are working to shore up efficiencies across facilities, technologies, and people.

Calling all innovators

A key challenge is the ability to store energy at scale and at an affordable cost, says HPE chief technologist Ian Hendersen. While progress is being made—think solar and wind farms, advanced battery technologies, and the like—we still don't have all the answers.

"Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our common future and the world doesn't have all the technology solutions that it needs," says Frey. To accelerate those solutions, HPE, Microsoft, and Facebook recently announced the Low Carbon Patent Pledge, which opens up technology patents that innovators can build on to find new ways to lower carbon emissions.

Please read: Technology patent release aims to accelerate energy innovation 

"There are a lot of tech incubators out there now focusing on climate," Frey says, many of which are looking at ways to bank energy. "Or it might even be larger companies that have said, 'Hey, we're not a technology company, [but we're] really great at designing, for example, a new efficient solar panel. But how do you do load balancing to take advantage of the amount of energy capacity that comes out of the solar cell?'"

Lowering data center energy use

Today, the IT industry is responsible for nearly 4 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions on earth, according to Mateo Dugand, an IT efficiency and sustainability technologist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. What can enterprises do to lower that figure?

Please listen to: Sustainable tech: Good for the planet, good for business

"There are a lot of ways that energy is wasted [in the enterprise]," says Hendersen, noting data center cooling is a prime example. He says companies can increase the power usage effectiveness of data center cooling by incorporating low ambient temperatures outside, geothermal energy, and on a smaller scale, containerized data centers, among other solutions.

Key metrics for efficiency

While such solutions can help reduce tech's carbon footprint, a solid strategy for increasing efficiencies across enterprise IT operations is a must, Frey says. He details four key metrics: equipment efficiency (doing the most work possible in relation to resources used); electrical efficiency (consuming the least amount of energy necessary for a workload); resource efficiency (optimizing the capabilities needed for a given workload); and software efficiency (writing code that saves compute cycles and energy use).

"When we look at studies of data centers around the world, what we find is about 25 percent of the equipment in the average data center is powered up and running, but doing no useful work," Frey says. "And then if you look at that other 75 percent, it's being operated down in the 10 to 30 percent of its rated capacity, and let's be clear: IT loads are typically not static."

To achieve greater efficiencies, companies are turning to software-based automation that enables systems to self-optimize and consumption-based models where "we can drop the right sort of amount of equipment onto that site, the customer only pays for what they use, we monitor the consumption, and we backfill that consumption ahead of them needing it," Frey says.

Please listen to: As-a-service: What it is and how it's changing the face of IT and business

But the data center is just part of the challenge. Companies need to increase efficiencies across all of their buildings and facilities, according to Rasha Hasaneen, vice president of innovation at Trane Technologies and executive director at the Center for Healthy and Efficient Spaces. That includes a focus on indoor environmental quality, which she explains is based on four pillars: thermal comfort, air quality, visual comfort (lighting), and noise and acoustic quality.

Pulling it all together

Given all of these components, how can enterprises pull together all the pieces into a coherent plan of action? And how about when that includes a mix of legacy and new technology assets, spread across various sites?

Jordan Appleson, CEO of Hark, a technology firm specializing in NG analytics and industrial IoT, says replacing old assets is not always possible, nor is it necessarily environmentally optimal. Instead, companies need to connect their old and new technologies, extract and move data from them into the cloud for analysis, and deploy real-time monitoring technology across all assets and sites.

"All of this needs to be taken into consideration now because the estate is siloed, and those silos need to be broken down to be able to then use this technology to effectively reduce waste," he says.

Listen to other episodes

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This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.