How energy firms can get ahead with green IT

Austin Energy is no Johnny-come-lately to energy efficiency among U.S. companies.

The US$1.2 billion power company estimates that it has saved energy equivalent to the output of a 660-megawatt power plant since 1985, when it launched the first in an extensive lineup of innovative energy conservation and renewable resources programs. Austin Energy’s goal is to boost that total savings by an additional 750 megawatts of power by 2020.

Also, for the sixth year in a row, the city-owned power company ranks as the No. 1 seller of green energy, including solar and wind power, among all U.S. electric utilities.

“We pride ourselves on being one of the most progressive utilities in the world,” says CIO Andres Carvallo.

The most important goal of Austin Energy’s energy-saving initiatives is reducing reliance on electricity and thus lowering overall carbon dioxide emissions. To reach that goal, it plans to use technologies such as smart appliances to monitor and control power usage at customer sites. The utility also plans to implement new server and storage technology, including multicore CPUs, virtualization, and de-duplication and compression techniques in its own data centre.

Currently, the company’s 1,600- person IT department is running just over 600 servers on 150 physical machines. This translates to 40 per cent energy savings, says Carvallo.

Austin Energy’s IT group manages 195,000 real-time devices used for auto