Federal data centers were already going green. Congress may be pushing them to get even greener.
In January, the House of Representatives unanimously passed by voice vote the Energy Efficient Government Technology Act (HR 306), which would mandate that agencies develop plans in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget and Environmental Protection Agency to implement energy-efficient technology in their data centers. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), now must be taken up by the Senate.
Under the bill’s provisions, every agency must develop plans to purchase, maintain and use energy-efficient and energy-saving IT in their data centers. The plans must consider the use of advanced metering infrastructure; energy-efficient data center strategies and ways of increasing asset and infrastructure utilization; advanced power management tools; building information modeling, including building energy management; secure telework and travel substitution tools; and mechanisms to ensure that the agency realizes the energy cost savings brought about through increased efficiency and utilization.
Pushing Toward a More Energy-Efficient Future
Similar versions of the bill authored by Eshoo passed the House in 2013 and 2016 by wide bipartisan margins, according to a statement from Eshoo’s office.
According to Eshoo’s statement, data centers account for nearly 2 percent of all U.S. electricity consumption and 10 percent of the federal government’s electricity consumption. The congresswoman notes that improving energy efficiency at the federal government’s nearly 2,000 data centers could significantly reduce energy use and save billions in taxpayer dollars.
Citing data from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a nonprofit energy research firm, Eshoo’s statement noted that “widespread adoption of energy efficient information technologies could save the federal government more than $5 billion in energy costs through 2020.”
The bill directs the EPA to work with private industry (especially those with expertise in energy efficiency and data centers) and to also obtain and address input from the Energy Department’s National Laboratories or any college, university, research institution, industry association, company, or public interest group with applicable expertise. Those organizations need to follow commonly accepted procedures for the development of specifications, must adhere to accredited standards development processes, and must have a mission to promote energy efficiency for data centers and IT.
The bill also codifies the existing Data Center Energy Practitioner Program at the Energy Department, which trains practitioners to inspect and evaluate the energy efficiency of data centers.
Additionally, the bill also “establishes an Open Data Initiative to make federal data center energy usage data available in a way that empowers further data center innovation,” Eshoo’s statement said. The bill would require the Energy Department to develop a new metric to measure overall energy efficiency of data centers, and to work toward harmonizing international metrics for data center energy efficiency.
Already on the Road to Greener Data Centers
Federal data centers were already being pushed to get greener. Under the Data Center Optimization Initiative, which OMB kicked off last summer, agencies’ data centers are supposed to meet several new requirements on energy efficiency, server virtualization and consolidation by Sept. 30, 2018.
Among the benchmarks: Agencies need to install energy-metering tools in all tiered data centers to measure power consumption. (Tiered data centers are full-fledged facilities with an uninterruptible power supply, cooling system and generator).
Further, data centers need to maintain a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) score of less than 1.5, but preferably less than 1.2. PUE is the ratio of total amount of energy used by a data center to the energy delivered to computing equipment inside the data center.