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FCO owns up to energy waste

Cites 'national security' as reason to leave 10,000 computers on overnight

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been leaving about 10,000 computers switched on overnight.

In response to a parliamentary question from shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth, minister Meg Munn said that on the assumption that each computer uses 80 watts of power and is left on for 14 idle hours each day, the department has used an estimated 4 million kilowatt hours of power each year in this way.

This means the overnight powering of FCO computers in a year has been roughly equivalent to the average annual output of a 1.7 megawatt wind turbine, or the electricity usage of several hundred homes.

At 12.12p a kWh, the cost used by the Energy Saving Trust to calculate savings for UK domestic users, the electricity for overnight running would have cost £485,000 annually, although Munn said that power prices vary around the world so a value could not be given.

"It has been our assessment that the risk of lost productivity and the risk to national security that this policy avoids outweighed its cost," said Munn in the answer given on 15 September.

However, in a previous answer to Ainsworth on this subject in June, Munn said that FCO's Future Firecrest IT infrastructure will include low power settings, which use 2 per cent to 5 per cent of full power after a short period of user inactivity. Installation began in March.

"As explained in my earlier answer, the consumption is expected to fall substantially as old equipment is replaced," said Munn in her September statement. "To date, approximately 3,500 new machines have been installed in offices in the UK. Under current plans all 12,000 machines worldwide should have been replaced by 2009. In addition to this, we will be applying global policies to ensure a reduction in power consumption."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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