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IBM offers 'green' certificates to data center power misers

Energy efficiency certificates let companies measure and claim reductions from power-hungry data centers.

IBM is launching an initiative to give its corporate customers a way to measure and potentially monetize energy-efficiency measures in their data centers using an emerging form of currency.

The computing giant on Friday detailed a program that will let companies earn energy-efficient certificates, which are awarded after a company undertakes a project to lower its data center power consumption. It's part of its Big Green Innovations program to invest in clean tech.

IBM is partnering with Neuwing Energy Ventures to verify the amount of kilowatt hours reduced through data center makeovers.

Companies can either claim those energy reductions as part of their own corporate environmental initiatives, which increasingly call for more quantifiable measures. Or they can sell the energy-efficiency certificates on the voluntary renewable energy certificate market. A handful of states also have a mechanism to sell these certificates to utilities that have renewable energy mandates.

IBM designed the program because more companies are looking for ways to accurately measure their energy consumption as part of environmental programs, said Rich Lechner, vice president of IT optimization at IBM.

He said he expects most customers to hold on to the energy-efficiency certificates rather than sell them. The monetary value of a large-scale energy efficiency program could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if the company chooses to sell as credits, he said.

The energy-efficiency credits are part of a growing trend to use financial markets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Most corporations in the United States are not regulated on the basis of their greenhouse gas emissions. But that's expected to change within a few years.

There are a number of federal proposals designed to put a monetary value on emissions, such as carbon dioxide. Some regimes call for a tax on carbon emissions, while others are built around a cap and trade model where polluters have a maximum emissions target and are issued credits when emissions fall below that cap.

IBM will offer the energy-efficiency credits on its mainframes and midrange servers to clients in the U.S. this year. It intends to extend the offering to its entire server and storage line and offer it to customers in Europe next year, said Lechner.