The green IT value of cloud based services has been an issue of debate over the past couple of years, but according to a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Northwestern University, there is a lot of potential to save on energy costs and emissions. The report said software applications commonly used by 86 million U.S. workers, if moved to cloud computing services could save enough energy each year to power Los Angeles.

Looking at the software as a service market, including CRM and office automation apps, the study found that moving these applications to cloud based services can cut energy consumption by as much as 87 percent. This equates to about 23 billion kilowatt-hours, the amount of electricity used by L.A. businesses and homes each year.

"Hopefully this puts well into the rearview mirror any questions about cloud computing being green," David Linthicum wrote on InfoWorld. "It's been a silent debate over the past several years, with many environmental organizations chiming in. We just need to use our heads on this one. Considering the amount of power that data centers require, it makes sense to share these resources effectively. And that's what cloud computing does."

The report said although data centers make up about 1 to 2 percent of global electricity use, cloud computing can help maximize the efficiency of these centers and make the negative effect on the planet less dire.