B.C. Hydro adds energy-efficient software to online catalogue

IT managers are a conservative bunch who are delaying implementation of innovative software such as energy management programs, according to David Rogers, a technology and project management specialist with BC Hydro, one of Canada’s largest electric utilities.

“The IT people are often blocking the progress, because they’re very conservative” Rogers says. “You don’t mess around with the IT people.”

Rogers has noticed the problem in attempting to convince organizations to implement energy savings programs that shut down computers when they’re not in use.

While IT managers have no objections to turning off monitors, computers themselves are a different story.

“It’s like the Holy Grail,” Rogers says. “Do not turn the hard drives off.”

The reason that they want the machines left on is typically for upgrades, he adds. However, this issue can be dealt with by waking computers through their LAN cards, and this can be done securely, Rogers says.

Programs such as Faronics‘s Deep Freeze—which BC Hydro recently added to its e-catalogue list of energy-efficient products–also have the option of leaving a computer on at certain times for updates, he says.

“If senior management could get into this and realize it makes economic sense, they can tell these guys, we’re paying you,” Rogers says. “You have a choice: If you don’t like it, get another job.”

Rogers adds that too many senior managers are presently pushed around by their IT managers: “Right now, it’s the other way round.”

He emphasizes that as a Crown corporation, BC Hydro does not promote any particular vendor, noting that there is a range of good energy management programs available.

Energy management programs are already saving about 15 million KWH of electricity in B.C. annually, he says, but the potential is far greater.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

BC Hydro estimates that only about 40 per cent of office staff turn their computers off at nights. The range is between four per cent and 100 per cent.

Each desktop tower uses about 50 watts of power, while a CRT monitor uses about 70 watts.

“Shutting both off is the way to go,” Rogers says.

Installing energy management software on all B.C. computers would cut consumption by an estimated 1 billion KWH annually, says Rogers.

This amounts to approximately 2.3 per cent of the 43 billion KWH that BC Hydro generates each year.

Even though BC Hydro’s revenue is from selling electricity, it’s cheaper for the provincially-owned company to conserve a kilowatt than it is to build a facility to generate a new one.

As well, by reducing electricity consumption within B.C., it can sell the extra capacity elsewhere at higher prices than it gets inside the province, Rogers says.

The emphasis of the Deep Freeze software is its “restart and restore” approach, according to Faronics marketing manager Dmitry Shesterin.

“Having Deep Freeze installed across an entire enterprise, say hundreds and thousands of computers, you can schedule a restart of those computers, or a shut down at a specified time,” says Shesterin. “Say you have 5,000 computers. You can specify at 8 o’clock in the evening, all those PCs carrying Deep Freeze will automatically shut down.”

The software also allows varying shutdown schedules for different groups of computers, Shesterin adds.

Another feature permits shutting down any workstation where there have been no keystrokes or mouse movements for a specified length of time.

The Deep Freeze software has proven highly popular in educational settings, both K-12 and in higher education, Shesterin says.

Its popularity in the classroom lies in the fact that the software permits system administrators to place no restrictions on the use of workstations, since when they are rebooted, Deep Freeze restores them to their original states.

The whole class could load any software they want, or even reformat the hard drive, without doing any permanent harm.

Without Deep Freeze, educational computers are often so locked down that few features are available to students, Shesterin says.

“How can you learn if they’re locked out of, say, mapping network drives?” he asks. “Deep Freeze is a perfect solution. Once you install it, you can do anything you want.”

None of the changes would survive the reboot.

“If the work station doesn’t reboot, it’s because of a hardware problem,” he adds.

While the original purpose of Deep Freeze was to reduce the amount of work needed to maintain workstations, it has a side benefit of cutting energy consumption.

BC Hydro’s Rogers says that thanks to Deep Freeze, the Vancouver School Board is saving about $200,000 annually in energy costs.

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