It has the backing of over 30 major players, including Google, Intel, Microsoft, HP IBM, Lenovo and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); it sets out stringent targets, including a reduction in computer power consumption of 50 percent by 2010; it has a clear focus on the problem posed by around half the energy drawn by PCs being wasted and lucid technical targets for tackling that problem; and it has the endorsement of a globally recognised charity that cannot afford to be seen as a corporate stooge and as such should ensure the scheme is vigilantly policed.
In short, it is a welcome and well thought out initiative and puts to shame some of the bandwagon jumping green IT groups that have emerged in the past few months.
And yet, I can't help thinking that this latest initiative raises very real concerns that a plethora of standards and green IT groups could ultimately confuse customers and even undermine the entire green computing movement.
The Climate Savers group has been very keen to point out that it has the endorsement of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which runs the popular Energy Star labelling scheme for energy efficient electrical equipment, and that its technical standards will build on Energy Star's standards.
For example, 2007 Energy Star specifications require that PC power supplies meet at least 80 percent minimum efficiency, while manufacturers wishing to have their kit certified under the Climate Saver's Initiative would have to meet a minimum of 90 percent by 2010.
But while the new requirements may outstrip those included under Energy Star they also beg the question as to why we need yet another energy efficiency label? Why not just crank up the requirements for Energy Star, which already has considerable traction and brand recognition, particularly in the US.
Catriona McAlister, who works on the Energy Star scheme in the UK, defended the decision, claiming that "whilst Energy Star [aims] to qualify the top performing 25 percent of the market, the Climate Savers Initiative may eventually provide a mechanism for purchasers to identify the very best of the energy efficient computers on the market, and as they are working closely with… the Energy Star label it is likely that the two initiatives will complement each other going forwards".
But if there is a need for a gold standard that goes beyond the current Energy Star specs why not introduce an Energy Star Gold or some such that would mean we would still have one unified standard.
The Climate Savers scheme, while admirable, could simply add confusion to the market. Its stringent standards may mean that only the most energy efficient IT kit available gains its certification, but meanwhile manufacturers who miss out would still be able to achieve Energy Star labels and advertise those to customers. Consumers and businesses hard pressed to wade through the different technical specifications would be forgiven for thinking one energy efficiency label is as good as the other, which patently they are not.
Of course, those behind the Climate Savers group could point to the fact that as a government run scheme Energy Star hasn't exactly broken any world speed records in developing new standards for PCs and is still at least a year off introducing standards for servers. An industry group, they could accurately argue, is likely to be more agile in developing stricter standards and ensuring they are met.
But if this is the case what is wrong with expanding the Green Grid consortium, which launched earlier this year and has many of the same members as the new WWF scheme.
A spokesman for Intel again insisted there was no overlap between the two groups and that they would prove complementary with the Green Grid focused on servers and datacentres and the WWF group focusing more on PCs and client devices.
Fair enough, but the Climate Savers standards do cover 1U/2U single- and dual-socket servers and again where is the harm in expanding an established green IT group rather than introducing yet another scheme with the attendant risks of customer confusion and duplicated work.
If you are being charitable then the emergence of these multiple green groups are simply the result of an industry exuberance that serves to highlight how seriously the whole issue of energy efficiency is being taken, rather than a machiavellian attempt to confuse customers.
However, we also have to accept that there is a very real risk that this glut of green groups, labels and targets will almost inevitably make it harder for customers to compare vendors' various energy efficiency claims.
If the IT industry is really serious about enhancing energy efficiency then perhaps it is time to call a moratorium on further energy efficiency labelling schemes, each with their own agenda and priorities, and instead try and encourage genuine industry wide adoption of the standards promoted by the existing consortia.
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