Recent changes to EU and UK legislation over emissions and energy efficiency are having little impact, according to a survey of IT heads.

The survey by American Power Corporation (APC) found significant gaps in awareness among those responsible for running data centres of new laws designed to penalise inefficient energy use. The result is that the legislation is have little or no impact.

APC spoke to over 150 higher-level IT-decision makers, including CIOs, IT directors, IT managers and facilities managers, and looked at their current and future concerns, awareness and knowledge of relevant legislation and their sensitivity towards the wider environmental context.

The results can summarised in one word: uncertainty. Traditional concerns about supply reliability, quality and cost have become enmeshed with broader environmental anxieties. Three times as many respondents believe the link between emissions and climate change has been scientifically proven than those who do not (59 per cent to 20 per cent). Half the sample considers that the increasing volume of high density IT equipment will add to the proportion of EU emissions accounted for by the building sector (with two-thirds of the remainder unsure rather than in disagreement).

Such uncertainties do have direct a business impact, the heads noted, with 54 per cent of them saying that the reduction of carbon emissions is a concern for their company. Yet fewer than one in four (24 per cent) think that their company is doing enough to reduce such emissions. Only 35 per cent consider that their organisation is ready to meet the EU-mandated Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) performance requirements.

Over three-quarters (77 per cent) were concerned about the increasing cost of energy and were over whether the National Grid will be able to reliably meet its power commitments - 45 per cent think it will and 41 per cent think it won’t. At the same time, only 47 per cent are confident that the National Grid can maintain power on the continuous basis necessary to protect their business from the consequences of power outages.

Further, while 65 per cent consider their data centre to be sufficiently protected against a significant power outage, almost one-third - 31 per cent - do not. This gap in protection becomes more significant when 55 per cent report that they have suffered power outages in 2005, and almost two-thirds (65 per cent) agree that the effective management of heat build-up (‘hotspots’) will become a major issue in the operation of data centre facilities. The issue of heat build-up is of particular concern to the 26 per cent of data centres housing blade servers - half of this group has noticed an increase in ‘hotspots’.

Legislation isn't working

In this context, legislative measures to increase the energy efficiency of buildings has had little impact. The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) was passed into law in 2003, requiring that both private and public sector buildings are given an energy efficiency rating whenever constructed, refurbished, sold or rented out. Seventy-nine per cent of the sample was not aware of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (or are unsure) and a similar proportion (82 per cent) was not aware of the Energy Performance Certificate. Fifty-nine per cent of responders don’t think that their building has been monitored or measured for emissions (and a further 27 per cent don’t know).

APC's UK country manager said: “Buildings, particularly data centres, are major consumers of energy. EC research indicates that 40 per cent of final energy consumption in the European Community comes from the buildings sector and that by improving energy efficiency, carbon emissions from buildings could be reduced by 22 per cent. But despite a fleet of regulations, it would appear that many businesses are either unaware of their responsibilities or are simply failing to take energy efficiency seriously."

Naturally, APC reckons its products are part of the solution.