GSA drives green IT procurements

With no clear metrics for defining an information technology solution as "green," contractors will be expected to consider environmental impact when bidding on federal contracts, said a top IT official with the General Services Administration, who added that the Federal Acquisition Regulation soon will include language that addresses agencies' need to purchase energy-efficient technology.

Helping agencies go green is a top priority for GSA, Assistant Commissioner for Integrated Technology Services John Johnson said on Wednesday, following a morning session at the Federal Networks Conference in McLean, Va. In particular, the agency plans to encourage more energy-efficient federal data centers, which account for 1.5 percent of total energy consumption in the United States.

"Agencies like GSA should play a leadership role," Johnson said. "[But] we're trying to figure out what to ask. Do we define metrics or require levels to drive down [consumption]? It seems logical that solution providers would take [this] into account."

The Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency share responsibility for the Energy Star program, which provides specifications for an array of products to be considered energy efficient. Equipment such as computers, monitors, printers and copiers can meet the standards through special designs that use less energy to perform regular tasks, and when not in use, automatically enter a low-power mode. A number of agencies have began to incorporate Energy Star specifications into contract requirements, and GSA offers agencies a range of environmentally efficient products through Schedule 70 contracts for IT equipment and services.

But requirements for energy-efficient IT products and processes generally are few. New initiatives could change that, Johnson said, incorporating green efforts into contract requirements as standard and language into the FAR, which defines government procurement processes. He wouldn't provide specifics.

"We want to drive industry in that direction, where there's an appropriate balance of what's doable and what's realistic," Johnson said.

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