May 06 2014

Energy Department Takes Aim at Inefficient Data Centers

Department officials are setting new goals for boosting efficiency across commercial and government facilities.

Few organizations know exactly how much energy their data centers consume, and for some it’s costing them — big time.

Energy Department statistics show that data center facilities can consume 100 to 200 times as much electricity as standard office buildings, the Government Accountability Office has reported. The Energy Department wants to improve those statistics across public and private-sector data centers through an upcoming Data Center Energy Challenge. The goal: improve energy efficiency.

“The eBays of the world and the Microsofts and Intels, they get it,” said Bill Tschudi, group leader for High-Tech and Industrial Systems Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “But the large part of the market is not doing that right now.”

Speaking at the GITEC 2014 Summit in Baltimore, Tschudi said participating organizations will be able to register a portfolio of data centers or a single facility. Participants in the voluntary challenge that register multiple data centers will be encouraged to improve energy efficiency by 20 percent over 10 years. Those with one facility will be encouraged to meet a goal of 25 percent over five years.

The department is still hashing out a reporting structure to measure effectiveness. One metric Energy may use is power usage effectiveness (PUE), which measures how effectively a data center uses power.

One of the first steps to measuring efficiency is metering, Tschudi said. There are a few leaders in the federal space, but much of the market does not have metering technology.

Another challenge to better efficiency is the fact that in many cases, management of data centers is outsourced, and there is little incentive for agency customers to focus on energy efficiency because they are unaware of electricity costs.

So far, about 10 public and private-sector organizations have committed to participating in the challenge, Tschudi said. The incentives for agencies may include technical assistance from Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program, access to training webinars and help implementing metering tools.

“The idea of this is to try to move the whole market,” Tschudi said of the energy challenge.

<p>Tomasz Wyszołmirski / Thinkstock</p>