The Climate Savers Computing Initiative was announced in June as a world-wide effort to cut IT carbon emissions. It was backed by three heavyweights: Google; Intel; and the World Wildlife Fund. The idea was to focus on IT energy use and to harness the energies of both IT buyers and IT manufacturers by having buyers pledge to buy more energy-efficient products on the one hand, and manufacturers pledge to make more efficient products on the other.

It set to work generating a practical scheme for this as well as recruiting new members. In November, with over 100 members, a catalogue of over 300 more energy-efficient IT products was announced. However there has been some criticism of CSCI. It's standard for environmentally-friendly product differs from that of EPEAT. The CSCI, like EPEAT, bases its energy-efficiency work on the US government-backed Energy Star standard but aims to go beyond it. (Energy Star 4.0 defines an 80 percent efficiency level for PC power supplies with an intention to improve on that in the future.)

Thus IT buyers face three overlapping standards with CSCI accused by some of splintering the standards efforts.

Also the CSCI catalogue only listed products from CSCI members, opening the alliance to being described as a trade association and not really a worldwide carbon emission-cutting organisation.

Techworld interviewed two CSCI board members and put questions around these issues to them. The board members were Bill Wiehl, the green energy czar at Google, and Matthew Guyer, the World Wildlife Fund's director of corporate relations. Their responses have been shortened for reasons of space.

Techworld: Is the CSCI an exclusive members' trade association

BW: We are a members' organisation but far from exclusive. We're open to anyone who wants to join. The goal is to drive energy efficiency higher across the industry. We're trying to do it faster than Energy Star. We're not dissimilar to EPEAT. Manufacturers have to pay administration costs to list their products; $2,500 is quite a nominal sum for this.

MG: Also, along with EPEAT, we want to do some education and raise awareness about efficiency in general.

Techworld: Is there a verification method attached to the claims made on the CSCI website?

BW: There are defined protocols for measuring them. Just as with Energy Star manufacturers self-certify and then we do spot checks. We expect to have a formal certification programme in 2008.

MG: Both Energy Star and EPEAT do self-certification and spot checks. We're hoping to monitor customers on their commitments.

Techworld: How are EPEAT and the CSCI represented in the public and private sectors?

MG: EPEAT has success in federal agencies and the public sector. I think it has the criteria to enroll private sector customers, such as Kaiser Permanente. Two (US) states have joined in CSCI.

BW: A big part of what we are trying to do is to raise awareness and educate people; organisations and individuals. We're trying to do that both on the demand side and the supply side. People haven't traditionally bought IT products for their energy efficiency. CSCI customer members are pledged to buy CSCI-certified products.

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Techworld: Meeting Energy Star 4.0 will be a challenge for the IT industry. How realistic is it to expect suppliers to be able to go beyond it in the near term?

BW: This is an interesting issue. Technology exists today to meet the Energy Star 4.0 target and do so at a fairly modest cost - $10 - $15 more that's at retail prices. There are technologies today to go well beyond Energy Star 4.0, past 80 percent efficiency, and the cost is not that much more, say $4 - $5 to go to 90 percent efficient power supply. We think the market needs a gradual transition in which manufacturers have time to ramp up supply.

With significant volumes we expect the price premium to come down to zero. It isn't a technology production issue; it's a volume production issue. By generating significant demand for energy efficiency we can help Energy Star 4.0 become ubiquitous across the entire industry. We'll raise the bar to the neighbourhood of 90 percent in the next few years - the only way to do that is to get significant sales volume.

(Techworld: EPEAT in the US public sector has a certain level of demand generated because federal agencies are mandated to only buy EPEAT-certified products. The CSCI is hoping to replicate that effect by having customer members commit to buying CSCI-certified kit and thus giving manufacturers confidence that there will be a market for manufactured CSCI-compliant products which will be a little more expensive than non-CSCI-compliant products.)

BW: Manufacturers may decide it will be hard to meet these higher levels of efficiency. But we have roadmaps and customers signing up to them, which gives manufacturers predictability.

Why does the CSCI have an apparent inattention to hazardous material and recycling issues?

BW: I think it's a fair statement that we're not focussed on those but on energy efficiency. It's urgent (and) we are driving demand for energy efficiency in the short term. There's a limit in teems of what one organisation can take on in the short term.

We certainly think that EPEAT standards are a good thing, being not just about energy efficiency. But what we are requiring our purchasers (customer members) to do is to require energy efficiency criteria in their purchases.

MG: This is true not just for the ICT sector. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that the technology exists to follow a less than doubling trajectory for climate change. We saw it (the CSCI) as a way to work with a particular industry to move the technology to market much faster. We want to replicate what we have done in other industries and really make a difference with climate change.

BW: We're working with the folks at the EPA and EPEAT to drive the issues. Very fast action is needed around climate change.

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Techworld: Doesn't the CSCI attributes environmental accomplishments to its members based on pledges of action, instead of demonstrations of specific achievement?

MG We'll have a formal verification programme for products.

BW: For members committing to CSCI purchasing criteria we'll want a submission every year saying what they have done. Some of these will be audited.

Techworld: What do you say to accusations that you are splintering the IT environmental standards field by re-inventing the wheel with the CSCI's own standard?

BW: Whether we end up with one standard across the board or a number of them is unclear. On the energy efficiency side we think we can move faster (than Energy Star) with a separate energy efficiency standard. EPEAT could continue with the CSCI. We certainly hope that we can work with EPEAT. We're talking to Energy Star.

MG: I think a big focus for CSCI has been education and that's starting to benefit Energy Star and EPEAT because there is a raised awareness about energy-efficiency already.

BW: I've been working in this area for one an a half years. I've seen a real change of attitude in CIOs. A year ago energy efficiency wasn't paid attention to. Now they look very hard at this. We deserve some of the credit for this. I think that many manufacturers have now adopted energy efficiency into their technical roadmaps for a significant proportion of their product lines. They see it as a significant issue.

EPEAt is US-only. CSCI is in the USA, Europe and Asia and expects to grow significantly. Demand is being driven now for Energy Star 4.0. It is a government programme run under government processes with a longer term time frame. Energy Star 4.0 is a huge step. The time frame for an Energy Star 5.0 could be several years. What we have tried to do is to lay out a roadmap for improved energy efficiency for several years, generate the demand in advance and so enable manufacturers to get to much higher levels of energy efficiency faster.

Comment and CSCI, Energy Star and EPEAT positioning

Having CSCI customer members saying, in effect, to CSCI manufacturer members, if you build it we'll buy it, gives manufacturers certainty that there will be a market for their energy-efficient (CSCI-compliant) products. It's a virtuous circle of demand and supply that will move much faster than it would otherwise do. The CSCI, driven by the World Wildlife Fund, wants to accelerate the IT industry's response to climate change and so reduce the IT-derived greenhouse gas emissions much faster than if the demand side of the equation was left solely to market forces and, perhaps, government regulation.

The implication here is that Energy Star and EPEAT, working under government processes and focussed primarily on the US public sector will be both slower and less influential than the CSCI.

Let's divide the IT world into the public sector and the private sector. Let's also give environmentally-friendly IT products three attributes: energy efficiency; hazardous material use; and recyclability.

The US government-backed Energy Star aims to provide PC energy efficiency IT standards and is from the public sector but is becoming used in the private sector too and being picked up outside the USA. The US government-backed EPEAT uses the Energy Star standard and adds in PC hazardous material and recycling criteria. It too is a public sector organisation with a desire to be used in the private sector as well and also would like to be used outside the USA. EPEAT wants to add servers into its product focus.

The CSCI focusses on energy efficiency for PCs and volume (X86) servers in the private sector. Its geographical scope includes the USA, its home base, Europe and Asia. The CSCI would like to achieve some form of unification of energy-efficiency standards between itself, EPEAT and Energy Star.