UK IT managers are being accused of ignorance over their power consumption figures, despite spiralling energy prices and the looming 'energy crunch', which could lead to power shortages in four years time.

IT consultancy The DMW Group, has just published new research that was carried out by Vanson Bourne last month, which surveyed over 100 IT managers and IT directors at UK businesses with revenues exceeding £50 million ($87 million).

It found that more than 70 percent of businesses admit they are concerned about future power shortages, but very few are taking any steps to minimise the risk.

The survey cited previous data from the power generating company E.ON, which predicts that by 2012, the UK (particularly the south east of England), could experience power 'brown-outs (partial loss of power) or indeed blackouts (complete loss of power).

This is because the UK is facing a shortage of power generation due to the fact that many UK power stations are reaching the end of their operating life, or they are facing closure because they contravene European directives. Building suitable replacement power stations, whether nuclear or fossil-fuel, is expected to take at least ten years, when lengthy planning processes, bureaucracy, and environmental debate are taken into account.

"We have ourselves have previously said that there could shortfall in power generation by as early as 2016," said a spokesman from rival power generator company EDF. "However we are clearly investing at the moment. We are building a gas fired power station in Nottinghamshire (due 2011). We are also committed to supply 1,000 megawatts of renewable capacity by 2012. We are also clear in our intention to be part of the new nuclear build in the UK."

E.ON did not respond to Techworld at the time of writing.

The DMW survey meanwhile also found that only 7 percent of UK businesses were able to estimate, with any reasonable accuracy, how much energy their IT operations are using. And 68 percent of organisations did not understand the energy efficiency of their data centres, one of the largest consumers of power for IT operations.

"It is certainly true that there are a large number of data centres in the south east of England compared to rest of country," said Simon Williams, director at DMW. "But this is a grid problem. Coal fired power stations are not meeting emission standards, and old nuclear stations need to be replaced. The drop off of generating capacity, plus the steady increase in demand, will mean that by 2012, demand exceeds supply.

"The main point from survey was that over half of IT managers are underestimating their IT energy consumption by a factor of two. They have got their numbers wrong," Williams told Techworld.

"They are not helped that there are few IT tools out there to measure power consumption," he added. "Knowing for example how many PCs and servers you have, how long they are left on for, etc, is a good start."

Williams also thinks that IT department should be made responsible for paying for electric bills, rather than the facilities department. Back in June, Morse revealed that 89 percent of businesses had no idea how much energy their IT department uses, and it also called for IT departments to be responsible for electricity bills.

DMW found that currently over two-thirds of respondents have not set any targets to reduce their IT energy consumption, or made preparations for the 'energy crunch'.

"We found that companies are paying, on average, £12 million per annum to power their IT estate," Williams said. "This reinforces the fact that reducing power consumption is not just green but is sensible in financial terms and is necessary to help reduce the risk of service interruption."

DMW has developed a Green IT calculator that it uses with benchmark data to calculate power consumption. According to Williams, it can typically cost a company anywhere from £10,000 to £30,000, depending on the amount of work needed.

The survey also found that 79 percent of businesses say that they have either made a start, or plan to do so, with server virtualisation or consolidation. But less than half of IT managers turn off power to servers when not in use, and just 47 percent have thought about reducing their average server power consumption.

Williams feels that organisations can implement several measures to reduce their power consumption. This includes monitoring systems to detect power supply issues, and the introduction of staggered business recovery plans that switches off non-critical systems in the event of a power shortage.

"People are starting to recognise they must do something about it (energy consumption). But until more CIOs are made responsible for their energy costs, this will not change quickly," Williams said.