Green the latest opportunity for consulting firms

Consultants. Few people love them, but they could play a big role in implementing green strategies.

Tech Culture

We've seen Intel, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and others tout servers and other products that consume less energy than their predecessors. Now the consultants will get into the act.

Green IT consulting will mushroom into a $4.8 billion industry by 2013, according to Forrester Research. The firm polled 130 companies and found that only six used a green IT service provider, but that 6 percent more were planning on it, and another 18 percent were considering it.

Some of the beneficiaries could be firms like Accenture, Deloitte, and EDS, which will start to provide holistic advice on energy efficiency and green corporate practices. IBM already has put together a fairly large effort to capture some of this work and is working with traditional IT customers but also utilities.

There's clearly room for consultants to improve the situation, paradoxical as that might sound. Although data centers account for only around 1.5 percent of the energy consumed in the country, the total consumed by them in the U.S. could rise to 100 billion kilowatt hours a year in 2011, a big jump from the 61 kilowatt hours consumed by data centers in 2006, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Without changes or improvements in efficiency, the increase will require 10 additional power plants, the EPA has estimated.

Close to half of the energy in data centers goes to air conditioners and cooling systems. Thus, much of the power goes to get rid of waste heat that, ideally, doesn't need to be produced in the first place.

Concerns about energy efficiency and carbon emissions are also providing a boost to traditional energy consultants. Tiandi Energy, for instance, recently received $3.5 million in funding. The company provides outsourcing services; its geotechnical experts from China are hired to work on oil and gas issues in the west.

Then you have start-ups such as Biosystems Engineering, a group formed by energy academics that provides consulting services to large corporations.

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