Green Revolving Funds Can Help Fund Costs of Cloud Computing and R&E Networking

By Bill St. Arnaud
Bill St. Arnaud

There have been some interesting new developments in university Green Revolving Funds (GRF) that I believe could be a significant revenue opportunity for cloud suppliers and R&E networks. In this age of severe financial constraints and cutbacks for universities, new revenue models are needed to sustain advanced cyber-infrastructure in support of research and education.

In recent years, GRFs have become increasingly popular on campuses in the United States and Canada. The funds operate and are managed by the university, with loans issued to university departments or campus groups. As of February 2011, there were 52 active green revolving funds in the United States and Canada. These funds were traditionally earmarked for energy efficiency applications like changing light bulbs or boilers. But increasingly they are now being used for IT applications.

Most green initiatives involve ICT in some form or another. A good example is Iowa State University that borrowed $300 from the university GRF to install energy saving software on over 500 computers, which is projected to result in over $49,000 in annual energy savings for the university.

One GRF model, that is gaining popularity, is national or state based GRF funds like Salix in the UK which received over $10m pounds from the UK government. These funds are also being targeted to support IT energy reduction as for example the recent funding of 2 million pounds to University of St. Andrews.

Another model, that is being explored is where the NREN operates a national GRF, sponsored by the national/state government or collectively on behalf of the institutions. Network membership or users fees can then be deducted against the fund, if the institution undertakes activities to reduce their IT energy impact through the use of clouds, remote collocation, offloading campus network management, content peering and other such services.

CANARIE, through the Greenstar program in partnership with the Canadian Standards Association has developed process and procedures on measuring the detailed energy costs savings that are possible through such arrangements.

Some pointers:
Good Overview of Green Revolving Funds
JISC white paper: Using IT to go green at universities & revolving green funds: briefing paper
CANARIE-Greenstar-CSA document

By Bill St. Arnaud , Green IT Networking Consultant

Related topics: Cloud Computing, Networks