Most businesses are keeping up efforts to improve the energy efficiency of their information technology, despite having less available capital due to the slowdown, a survey by research group Gartner Inc. shows.

Gartner asked 620 organizations worldwide, each with between 1,000 and 10,000 employees, whether they were having to cut back on measures to improve the energy efficiency of their IT systems.

For most businesses, particularly in Europe and the Asia Pacific region, the recession will not reduce the priority of so-called green IT projects, the survey results showed.

The IT sector is energy intensive and contributes 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, about the same amount as the aviation industry.

Outside western Europe, some enterprises assume becoming greener costs money and could therefore lower this goal in their list of priorities in tough times, Gartner said.

But businesses are increasingly implementing such measures, mainly due to the potential cost savings rather than their environmental benefits, the survey showed.

They are low risk, cost saving, and with short-term returns so why wouldn't (firms) pursue them? It's not surprising green project priority has held up quite well in recession as it is about saving money, Simon Mingay, research vice president at Gartner, told Reuters.

Forty percent of U.S., 58 percent of European and 15 percent of Asia Pacific businesses, which currently do not have any IT energy efficiency projects, said they were very likely to launch them this year.

More than a third of survey respondents expected to spend more than 15 percent of their IT budgets on projects to improve energy efficiency.

But the survey also showed that organizations in the United States and Brazil were the most likely to cut back on such green IT projects in 2009. It did not give a reason for this.

IT was one of the sectors most likely to scale down energy efficiency measures, according to the survey's results.

Only 20 percent of the European IT firms surveyed have budgets dedicated to improving the efficiency of their technology.

One possible explanation is that in Europe green IT is considered 'business as usual' by many and does not require any specific special treatment, Gartner said in a statement.

Gartner expects businesses to continue to spend money on making their computers and systems more energy efficient.

Over the past couple of years we have seen significant growth in spending motivated by increased energy efficiency. I would say this area will continue to grow in the future, rather than remain static, Mingay said.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Anthony Barker)