7 November 2011: The University of Hertfordshire has won a prestigious Green Gown Award 2011 for its pioneering data centre refurbishment project. This outstanding achievement was announced on 3 November at the national awards ceremony held at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London.
Run by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), the Green Gown Awards (GGA) recognise exceptional environmental initiatives being undertaken by universities, colleges and the learning and skills sector across the UK. With 240 applications this year, a rise of 25% from 2010, GGA are firmly established as prestigious recognition of sustainability excellence in the further and higher education sectors.
The GGA covers 13 awards categories and the University has won the coveted Green ICT category. This recognises the growing environmental importance of ICT within the sector; it encompasses a variety of actions that help minimise energy consumption, carbon emissions, waste generation and other environmental impacts associated with ICT use.
After months of scrutiny the judges said the UH entry gave “Impressive examples of best-practice features which could easily be adapted by others.” At the Awards Ceremony a delighted Steve Bowes-Phipps, UH Data Centre Manager, was presented with the impressive GGA trophy which will be proudly displayed in the College Lane Learning Resources Centre.
Steve said: “Once again, the Data Centre Refurbishment project has been recognised as a beacon of good practice both in the industry and in the HE/FE sector.” He praised his project team colleagues from across the University saying the award was fully deserved: “This has been an important 3-year development for the University which has delivered not only a world-class green data centre but also an operationally efficient one.”
(with thanks to EAUC for providing this news item)
The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) have recently published their proposals for the simplification of the Climate Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme.
The scheme has been criticised by many for its complexity, and as a result, the Government committed itself to simplifying the CRC and published a number of discussion papers earlier this year. DECC has now summarised the proposals for a simplified scheme, intended to be applied from Phase 2 (2013) onwards.
The most significant proposals include:
Making the qualification process easier: Under the original scheme, qualification of organisations was based on two criteria: (i) the presence of one or more settled half hourly meters; and (ii) a total electricity of at least 6,000MWh measured to such meters. Under the simplified scheme, participants will just have to prove they use a certain amount of electricity from the qualifying meter. Whether this will differ, in practice, from the original rule is currently unknown.
Reduce the number of fuels covered by the scheme: Currently participants are required to report on their energy supplies from a list of 29 fuels. DECC now proposes to reduce this number to four: electricity, gas, kerosene, and diesel (and the latter two, where used for heating purposes).
Move to fix price allowance sale: The initial scheme provided for an allowance auction from Phase 2 onward. The number of allowances would have been capped following the auction, with an option to purchase additional allowances on the secondary market. Current proposals, however, would establish two sales per year, with a fix price for allowances. This removes the need for businesses to come up with auctioning strategies, although it is unsure whether there will still be room for a secondary market and how this market evolve.
Simplifying organisational rules: Previously, participation was based on highest parent company. This caused problems to many business structures, particularly private equity and other investment funds, as it did not reflect their natural structure or processes of these organisations. Under the simplified scheme, although qualification would be maintained at highest parent company, organisations will be permitted to participate as “natural business units”. What will be considered as a natural business unit is not defined in the proposals.
Removing overlaps between the CRC scheme and other schemes: Any organisations or sites covered by a Climate Change Agreement or the EU Emissions Trading Scheme will be automatically exempt of the CRC.
Despite numerous calls from stakeholders, DECC has decided against changes made to rules dictating the landlord and tenant relationship under the scheme.
Following this review, the Government now intends to publish draft legislative proposals in early 2012 for formal public consultation.
The University Sector has been trying for some time now to investigate cost-effective ways of sharing ICT provision and services across institutions. Most of these attempts have failed due to intransigence from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), who wish to impose a double-VAT burden on institutions wishing to avail themselves of these services, where no VAT burden may have been payable originally. Consider the example of a shared service data centre between two universities:
Currently both universities separately and routinely incur a liability for VAT on the purchase of services, subject to a partial exemption calculation.
If shared services are provided by a third party in the case of a separate legal entity or one university providing the services to the other) there is a potential for an additional VAT cost to be created, since the provider (if a university) would only be able to recover input tax in line with its partial exemption method and would need to seek to charge the other university on the irrecoverable VAT as part of the recharge.
As this would be a taxable supply VAT would be charged on the total recharged amount, including the irrecoverable VAT.
If the organisation set up to deliver the shared service employed the systems administrators who have transferred across from the institution(s) no longer requiring their services in-house, then the VAT burden has gone from zero to the double-VAT described above.
Not being an Accountant, I can’t tell you what this additional levy would mount up to, but I can assure you, that on a VAT rate of 20%, this could prove uneconomic and detrimental to the business case for a shared service initiative. Is it any wonder that no university has done this yet!
Fortunately, a ray of light has appeared in the form of the most recent White Paper issued June 2011 by the UK Coalition Government (http://bit.ly/oBPsZE). The White Paper has recommended reviewing the VAT burden on shared services in particular and HMRC are asking for feedback on the proposal in their review published here: http://bit.ly/paBpI8
This may be the chance to influence taxation policy that we have been waiting for and then maybe the creation of a “U-Cloud” for universities will come a step closer to reality.
Richard and I presented at the DataCenter Dynamics Public Sector Conference in Manchester on Monday 10 May. Attended by around 300 Public Sector professionals and supplier organisations, this conference was targeted specifically at addressing the issues around managing, refurbishing and building data centres and the impact of the “G” (Government) Cloud on Public Sector strategy.
We had a good attendance for our case study “Micro Data Centre Refurbishment – Overcoming Physical and Budgetary Constraints in a Legacy Mixed-Use Facility” and the feedback afterwards was excellent. More details on the conference can be found here: bit.ly/afDHUi
I also travelled to the University of Bremen last week, where I contributed to a joint exercise with Oxford University in exporting Green ICT to Germany. Howard Noble from Ox Uni spoke on the Desktop PC angle, including tackling the social-psychological obstacles to changing to a sustainable future. I presented Green ICT from the Data Centre perspective, including demonstrating a methodology for tackling the challenges of sustainability in a systemic way using my in-development Sustainable ICT Maturity Model.
Bremen University hope to use what they’ve learnt from our visit to build a Green ICT educational programme, incorporating those skills into academics, students, apprentices, technicians and engineers, with collaboration from the Mittelstand (SMEs). This may be rolled out across the region as a formalised pedagogy that would allow all Universities within Germany to offer these training programmes and set Germany on the path to a more sustainable future. It is important to note that currently Green ICT has no foothold in the educational sector over there.