City governments take lead on reducing energy consumption

04 March 2013 | Bill Mitchel, Senior Director for Microsoft’s World Wide Public Sector team

Governments at every level are the stewards of natural resources within their domains and, as a benchmark of good governance, are responsible for providing healthy, sustainable, and well-maintained environments for their citizens.  In our ever-more-connected global economy, this also entails respecting natural resources and environments outside of traditional domains, requiring governments to focus on optimizing the broader consumption of our planet’s natural resources, which is key to minimizing the effects of global pollution.

City governments hold a key position in this government ecosystem, because the IT solutions they deploy have a proportionately large effect on the environmental health of their municipalities, and, in aggregation, a combined effect on the broader national and global environment.

In particular, private cloud technologies are enabling a positive impact on the energy consumption of city government data centers. A recent example of this is the Tainan City Education Center, a division of the Tainan city government in southwestern Taiwan, which provides information technology services to the city’s public schools. With the help of Microsoft, the education center has begun migrating to a services-based private cloud infrastructure.

A key feature of this new infrastructure is that it significantly reduced emissions. As a nation, Taiwan places a lot of importance on decreasing its carbon footprint—the country is aiming to reduce its emissions by 30 percent from projected “business as usual” levels by 2020, and the mayor of Tainan has emphasized the importance of making it a low-carbon “smart city.” The education center estimates that its new data center transformations will contribute to this effort by reducing power consumption and eliminating an estimated 2,610 tons of carbon emissions per year.

Another way in which cities are having a positive impact on the environment is by providing citizen service solutions that enable the community to consume and pollute less.  One great example is Salt Lake City’s streamlined building permit process, which has had a major impact on the city’s carbon footprint. City employees estimate that as all permit activity moves online, the city and its customers will drive 360,000 fewer miles and print 512,000 fewer pounds of paper each year.

Finally, cities are also generating local solutions directly aimed at improving the environmental health of the municipalities in which their citizens live. A well-known example is LoveCleanStreets—an award winning online tool developed by the London Borough of Lewisham (with partner bbits)—that gives citizens power to improve their environment by reporting environmental crime. 

News of Lewisham’s success attracted widespread media attention in 2010 after the U.K. government requested that all local councils reduce costs by up to 25 percent through better use of assets and resourcing.  This led to the development of LoveCleanLondon—a scalable, cost-effective, cloud-based service running on the Windows Azure platform. Residents can download the LoveCleanLondon app for free, or visit the site to upload photographs of rubbish or graffiti in their area, and to view the council’s progress in resolving problems. They can search for and share reports on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites, or subscribe to updates through RSS feeds.

What makes all of these solutions even more attractive for city governments is that they not only save the environment, they also save money and time. Tainan City, for example, expects to save US $344,000 per year in hardware and support costs by embracing a private cloud, it now costs Lewisham Council just £1.10 to process a report made on LoveCleanStreets, compared to £5.10 for a complaint made by phone, and Salt Lake City has reduced time for building permit approvals by 50 percent. For a unique look at Salt Lake City’s success, check out the info graphic below.

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Bill Mitchel
Senior Director for Microsoft’s World Wide Public Sector team

Microsoft on Government Blog

About the Author

Bill Mitchel | Senior Director for Microsoft’s World Wide Public Sector team

As Senior Director for Microsoft’s World Wide Public Sector team, Bill Mitchel leads the company’s government business development to drive energy, transportation and sustainability solutions. Read more