Targeting carbon reduction

In his 2008 grant letter, John Denham asked HEFCE to make carbon reduction a factor in future capital allocations to higher education institutions. HEFCE has now outlined plans for working with the sector to achieve this, and how sector-level carbon reduction targets can be set.

The responses to the consultation on HEFCE’s sustainable development action plan indicated that there was a high level of support for developing a carbon reduction target and consultants have now been appointed by HEFCE to identify the baseline measurement, set a target and devise the strategy to deliver the targeted reduction.

IT equipment is a major consumer of power within an institution. A number of IT Directors have been presented with the cost of power for the services they run which has helped focus the minds of some but there was evidence that most institutions were already taking steps to operate more efficiently and thus reduce their carbon footprint. Institutions are already implementing ‘green’ measures including systems to automatically power off unused equipment, to better utilise servers by deploying virtualisation and by supporting location independent working.

However, there is much IT can contribute to helping deliver the target in addition to putting its own house in order. Although the HEFCE’s strategy recognised that ICT can make a significant contribution to carbon reduction, ICT is not often thought of as ‘infrastructure’ and so opportunities to fund ICT driven improvements are lost. Too often the focus is on the bricks and mortar. The importance of not losing sight of the role technology can play in reducing carbon emissions was highlighted in UCISA’s response to the consultation on HEFCE’s sustainability strategy. Our challenge is to build stronger ties with our counterparts in Estates to ensure that the target is met.

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