How Simple Power Management Saved A Fortune For The University Of Sydney

We all know that using the power management facilities on our PCs is a sensible idea to reduce energy usage, but it's often hard to conceptualise just how much difference doing that can make. The University of Sydney introduced automated power management technologies into its student labs, and saw huge reductions in its environmental impact as a result.

Picture by Philip Choi

The University has more than 100 lab facilities spread over its various facilities, and in many of those locations the PCs were left to run for 24 hours a day, even though students could only access them between 8am and 6pm. The reasoning behind that was twofold -- patching the systems out of hours required them to be on, and there weren't staff in place to switch the systems off. But the end result was PCs that were running at near full clip all the time while no-one was using them for two-thirds of the day.

Geoffrey Brown, director of faculty services for ICT at the university, explained how the problem was tackled during an Intel press lunch in Sydney today. By introducing Intel vPro systems, which allow remote access and automated power management, the university was able to automate shutting down PCs outside of lab hours while still enabling patching and other remote management tasks. By the university's own calculations, the effect of shutting down just 3 PC systems in a lab out of hours over a year was equivalent in emissions term to taking a car off the road for the same time period.

Brown admitted he was sceptical when those results were first presented to him, so he set engineering students the task of poking holes in the data. They couldn't find any flaw in the analysis. You're unlikely to be running thousands of machines in labs, but the same principle applies: not leaving your PC running when you don't need it will make a measurable difference.


    And that is only when we are talking about computers. Just imagine how much Universities can save on putting the Airco or heating just one degree higher or lower.
    At Uni Melb we had to take clothes with us in summer to not be freezing in the lectures -and no, we weren't just wearing a miniskirt and an open see-through top-. In winter it was the other way around.

      Oh trust me, my uni (Wollongong) does turn off the air con automatically. In the labs at 6pm you will hear a clang and slowly the lab will warm up.

      On the weekends it is even more fun - try supervising an exam that is 70% full (think 120 engineering/maths students) that has no ventilation when the air con is off. There is no way to turn on the air con on the weekends - building and grounds says it is impossible to do. It is painful.

    When I was U Syd, the Computer Science department handled air-conditioning by having the lecturers blast hot air over the students, usually by copying out our textbook word for word onto overhead projector slides and reading them word for word, without further example or clarification. I believe that's closer to heating than lecturing.

    Defence (which probably has over 50000 computers) has been doing this for at least 2 years.

    I have also written a post that explains how to use the inbuilt feautres of Windows to manage power plans based on the time of day. Here

    And imagine how much MONEY they could save switching to linux.

      I attended a university that provided the option of using Windows XP or Ubuntu at start-up, both connected to the same Windows domain environment with same access to documents, net etc. Guess how many times I saw people using the Linux alternative...

    It's good to see more organisations working on improving energy efficiency. They haven't published how much they saved though? Pretty sure it's a significant amount. There's another PC power management tool called PowerMinder that is good too(

    Well, they could save even more if they gave Powerminder ( from Integrated Research (of North Sydney) a go!

Join the discussion!