by May 7, 2008 0 comments



April 22 was Earth Day.

On that day, summer set in with a bang in northern India. Delhi crossed 40
Celsius, and promptly marked the occasion by starting off those long and
frequent power cuts.

At offices and homes across the region, people prepared for the summer.

At my South Delhi home, our power backup died, and we upgraded our inverter’s
ageing batteries with two large, heavy tubular batteries, setting me back Rs
14k. We went around checking where all we could cut power use, to stretch that
battery backup. (We even got our air conditioners serviced, in eternal hope and
optimism about power availability.)

At night I found a snazzy marketing pamphlet from our power utility, BSES
Rajdhani-“Remember when marketplaces were full of noisy and smelly gensets?” and
laughed because the same evening, we’d found our local marketplace teeming with
noisy and smelly gensets.

Few countries are immune to outages. US-based Electric Power Research
Institute estimates that they cost Americans more than $100 billion a year. (An
act signed by President Bush last December makes it US policy to upgrade
electricity grids with communications and sensors to create a “Smart Grid” that
can avoid power outages, lower emissions, and cut energy consumption).

Two days before Earth Day, a part of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, lost power
due to a failure at utility company Eskom. As I write this, the area’s been
without power for five days. Eskom resorts to scheduled power cuts, and admits
these can damage appliances not designed for power interruptions and surges. (At
our Delhi home, a new exhaust fan burnt out on Earth Day.)
But India faces an acute power crisis that gets worse each year. For businesses,
that means rising power and backup costs, and an urgent focus on power-savings
and lower-power equipment.

Prasanto K Roy,
president, ICT Pubilsing Group, CyberMedia

Summer gives us time for a pause and a reality check on what we’re consuming.
Few people in India would worry about overuse of power (or the resulting
emissions) if it were not for the shortage of power. That shortage requires
forcing us to plan, spending on capex, looking at ways of stretching the battery
backup and generator power, and more.

And it gives us a chance to look for ‘leakages’.

Old incandescent bulbs are a clear no-no: they’d drain any backup system (yet
they dominate the Indian landscape, due to cost). CRT monitors are equally heavy
drains and heat sources-each is like switching on a 60 watt bulb in your office.
LCDs save you power, letting you stretch your current UPS battery bank, and
don’t require as much cooling.

And what about PCs left on during the night? Businesses see a third or more
of PCs left on.

Our CIO circulated the figures for our company, CyberMedia, on Earth Day. Our
683 computers draw over 200 kW per hour. A sample showed that 30% were left on
at night, that’s up to 300,000 kW-hours of power going down the drain in a year.

Users aren’t going to ‘go green’ overnight. Greener tech-PCs and displays
that suspend on non-use, or D-Link’s Ethernet switch powers down port by port-or
policies such as powering down segments of the network at night or over weekends
(say, everything but the servers) can help.

Like it or not, the summer of 2008 will be racked by power shortage. But
think of it as an opportunity-to explore the green side.

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