Does ISO International Energy Management Standard ISO 50001 helps Green IT?

Energy managementThe future ISO 50001 standard for energy management was recently approved as a Draft International Standard (DIS). The well-known Deming cycle, plan-do-check-act (PDCA) forms the foundation of this management system framework. It is an iterative four-step improvement process, and should be the improved version of energy management that is currently used in a lot of organizations: the so called Wright cycle (guess-do-crash-fix).

Therefore this framework for energy management has a high level of compatibility with ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management). Targeting broad applicability across national economic sectors, it is estimated that the standard could influence up to 60% of the world’s energy use. If everything goes well ISO 50001 is expected to be published as an International Standard by early 2011.

What will ISO 50001 address?

  • A framework for integrating energy efficiency into management practices
  • Making better use of existing energy-consuming assets
  • Benchmarking, measuring, documenting, and reporting energy intensity improvements and their projected impact on reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Transparency and communication on the management of energy resources
  • Energy management best practices and good energy management behaviors
  • Evaluating and prioritizing the implementation of new energy-efficient technologies
  • A framework for promoting energy efficiency throughout the supply chain
  • Energy management improvements in the context of GHG emission reduction projects.

This gives the IT industry and IT consumers the opportunity to have a foundation and a standard  for IT energy management and to get grip on the IT energy consumption you should say. Getting an international standard on energy management is a big step forward. But it doesn’t answer the question which energy efficiency are we talking about. When we are talking about energy efficiency and optimal usage of energy in IT (Green IT), what do we mean exactly with efficiency and optimal? What is the perception and what are the goals that goes behind this terminology?

  • Energy efficiency; emphasize on becoming increasingly efficient in the usage of energy whilst economic growth can cause continuing use of more energy.
  • Energy productivity; emphasize on sustainable development because of the scarcity of energy resources and the interest and concern of the climate change and the carbon dioxide emissions.

Does this makes a difference? Yes, it does.

The effect that increases in energy efficiency raise energy consumption is known in economics as the Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate. This is explained by the fact that on the micro level increases in energy efficiency leading to lower costs of energy, and on the macro level side increases in energy efficiency leads to increased economic growth. The Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate is a special case of what in economics is called the Jevons paradox, increases in the efficiency of using a resource tends to increase the usage of that resource.

It appears that Green IT is more about sustainability and thus energy productivity then energy efficiency. Yet, Green IT and energy efficiency are more commonly used and accepted as the goal, since it is about how to reduce energy use without loss of economic performance. Considering the Climate change issue, the goal of economic performance instead of economic sustainability looks rather short-sighted.

Bookmark and Share