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Unlike the “green guerillas,” IBM believes in the power of financial markets to help fight climate change — and bring in customers. This morning, Big Blue said it will offer customers “energy efficiency certificates” in exchange for reducing the energy consumption of their data centers. Participants […]

Unlike the “green guerillas,” IBM believes in the power of financial markets to help fight climate change — and bring in customers. This morning, Big Blue said it will offer customers “energy efficiency certificates” in exchange for reducing the energy consumption of their data centers. Participants in the program will be able to trade the certificates between brokers or companies and utilities in places where utilities are required to procure energy efficiency certificates in order to cover demand growth.

There is currently no open market for trading energy efficiency certificates, such as the Chicago Climate Exchange or the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). But according to an IBM spokesperson, “It is expected that an open exchange will be established as EECs are incorporated into more state- and country-level demand side management programs.”

Data centers are massive power hogs, and companies from IBM (IBM) to Sun Microsystems (JAVA) to Google (GOOG) are focused on reducing data center energy consumption using technology like virtualization (software that reduces the amount of servers needed), as well as by changing data center design flaws. Unsurprisingly, IBM said its customers can use IBM’s “data center evaluation offerings” to find ways to reduce data center energy usage.

“The challenge many companies face is monitoring and verifying their efficiency efforts in their data centers,” writes Rich Lechner, IBM’s vice president of IT optimization, in a blog post. IBM says Neuwing Energy Ventures will verify the energy reduction needed to receive the certificates. Computer World points out that the certificates will only initially be for mainframes, but will be extended to servers and storage systems.

Selling carbon-reduction certificates on voluntary financial markets is an emerging practice in the U.S., but one that is expected to grow. There are currently federal proposals out there aimed at placing a value on carbon; taxing carbon emissions or creating a cap-and-trade system are other options being considered as well. According to the International Trading Emissions Association and the World Bank, the overall value of the global aggregated carbon markets was over $10 billion in 2005.

For now, certificates are a nascent market and just an added incentive. The real savings will come with the reduction of a company’s energy bill. A report from the Environmental Protection Agency says that $4 billion in annual electricity costs could be saved through more energy efficiency in U.S. data centers.

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