In a city government that uses approximately 1,500 computers across 60 different sites, energy consumption drives up the cost of doing business -- an issue that Spokane, Wash., addressed by integrating power management software in the city’s PCs.

As part of an energy-saving initiative developed by the Spokane's former mayor, Mary Verner, the city began a monthlong trial three years ago using Verdiem Surveyor power management software to reduce the city’s PC energy consumption.

At the end of the trial, calculations determined that the city’s baseline energy consumption for PCs ranged at more than 598,000 kWh annually -- a cost of $43,500, according to Verdiem. Once integrating the software into 1,300 of the city’s PCs, Spokane reduced its annual energy consumption by almost 35 percent – more than 200,000 kWh – and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 280,000 pounds.

Reports estimate that the city saves almost $15,000 annually on utility costs from reducing PC energy consumption, though no official amount has been calculated because energy costs for the city are bundled heating, air conditioning and lighting.

Michael Sloon, director of Management Information Systems, said that adding the Verdiem software to the city's PCs, which use Microsoft software and tools, did not slow performance. He also noted that key to the Verdiem software deployment was the “wake-on-LAN” capability, which meant that PCs in sleep mode still maintain a network connection. Although the computers aren’t in use by a staff member when in sleep mode, the Verdiem software allows for the PC to be partially “awake.”

The city also developed energy management policies to adjust when the PCs went into “sleep mode." Because not every department in the city opens at the same time (some open at 6 a.m., some at 8 a.m. and some areas run 24/7) the IT team adjusted the software so the PCs would remain in sleep mode at appropriate times.

During the evenings, the computers can still be accessed for monthly security patches and updates, and employees needn't do anything special to ensure this happens -- it's automatic.

“We wanted impact [for the user] to be very low,” Sloon said. “And it was.”

Photo of downtown Spokane, Wash., courtesy of Shutterstock

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.