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Green IT firmly on the agenda with ICT sustainability plan

by Andrew Starc •
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Government ICT suppliers will be subject to a host of new environmental standards as part of the Federal Government’s five year plan to improve environmental performance and reduce carbon emissions across its ICT operations.

Developed by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) in response to the 2008 Gershon Review, the Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010 - 2015 (the Plan) outlines a series of whole-of-government energy efficiency targets relating to desktop, data centre and server room energy.  By July 2015 agencies will be expected to achieve energy intensity targets of 250 kilowatt hours or less in desktop energy per end user per annum and data centres and server rooms will need to achieve a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.9 or less.

It is estimated that this will represent an improvement in energy performance across government ICT functions of approximately 20%.

Addressing the Technology in Government conference in Canberra on Tuesday 10 August 2010, Australian Government Chief Information Officer Ann Steward commended the government endorsed plan, commenting that it was one of the final planks in the overall Gershon reform agenda.  Ms Steward also noted the work done on the Plan by recently retired DEWHA CIO Peter Woods.   

The Plan introduces a set of mandatory standards for government ICT procurement processes binding both suppliers and government agencies. 

The Plan states that “mandatory environmental standards will be applied to the purchase of ICT equipment and consumables posing significant environmental risk or impact. The standards are a minimum level of environmental performance and therefore will be a necessary condition of participation for any supplier to respond to an ICT request for tender.”.

A number of internationally recognised standards will be enforced.  The plan calls for “compliance with ISO (International Organization of Standardization) 14024 or ISO 14021 at the level of EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) Silver or equivalent as a minimum standard for relevant ICT equipment.

“Compliance with the EPEAT standard is a requirement in a number of other countries – notably the USA in relation to government operations – and has been accepted by the Australian ICT industry as a viable approach,” the plan explains.

Suppliers are also mandated to implement environmental management systems in line with ISO standards, a measure that the plan states will ensure “compliance with environmental legislation, regulations and related policies and guidelines.”

Furthermore, it is stipulated that “agencies must ensure that suppliers have an EMS aligned to the ISO 14001 standard or ensure that suppliers will have business processes aligned to the EMS ISO 14001 standard within six months of contract signing”.

The standards also mandate compliance with the internationally recognised standard for energy efficient electronic equipment, ENERGY STAR.

“Under this plan agencies and suppliers are required to ensure that all relevant ICT equipment being procured comply with the current ENERGY STAR version,” states the plan.

Pursuant to the ENERGY STAR rating, agencies will be required to include resource recovery and take-back provisions in relevant ICT procurement and service contracts for toner cartridges and mobile devices, and televisions and personal computers (laptops, desktops and peripherals) covered by the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme under the National Waste Policy.

The plan also outlines provisions to cut down on packaging of ICT equipment, mandating suppliers to be signatories to the National Packaging Covenant by July 2011 or comply with the requirements of the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure.

“In general, suppliers are required to minimise packaging while allowing for appropriate packaging to prevent damage; reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging; and improve used packaging materials reuse and recycling,” states the plan.

General use office copy paper within agencies will also be required to have a “minimum post-consumer recycled content of 50 per cent by July 2011, with progression to 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content by July 2015.”

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