EPA Wants Tax Breaks
for IT Energy Efficiency”>
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agencys Energy Star program has submitted a report to Congress calling for tax incentives to promote IT energy conservation.
The report predicts that energy consumption by servers and data centers will double by 2011 and calls on the federal government to lead by example to achieve energy conservation goals.
The report stresses that the industry must focus on building only low-power, Energy Star-rated servers in order to slow demand for electrical power. It also outlines existing and emerging opportunities for energy efficiency and voluntary programs to promote energy-efficient servers and data centers.
The Energy Star certification is similar to existing programs for household appliances, such as refrigerators, ovens and clothes dryers.
The report, originally due to Congress on June 16, was requested by Congress in legislation passed in December 2006, introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
Read more here about why Congress initiated the study of energy consumption in the nations data centers.
The EPAs Aug. 3 report to Congress highlights these key findings:
- Assuming current trends continue, the national energy consumption by servers and data centers is expected to nearly double by 2011.
- Data centers consumed about 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006, roughly 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, or about $4.5 billion in electricity costs.
- Federal servers and data centers alone account for approximately 6 billion kWh (10 percent) of this electricity use, at a total electricity cost of about $400 million per year.
- Existing technologies and strategies could reduce typical server energy use by 25 percent—even greater energy savings are possible with advanced technologies.
The report augments the EPAs ongoing efforts to develop new energy efficiency specifications for data servers, including market and technical research, industry collaboration, and explorations into a new Energy Star buildings benchmark for data centers, which reflects an entire buildings energy efficiency.
The EPA report recommends a mix of programs and incentives, as well as a holistic approach to achieve significant savings. Recommendations include the following:
- Financial incentives, e.g. tax credits and utility rebates
- An Energy Star whole-building performance rating system for data centers
- Standardized performance metrics for data centers
- Federal leadership through best practices, public/private partnerships, education, training and development of Energy Star specifications for servers and related product categories
- Federal/industry research and development
Eshoo welcomed the recommendations of the EPA Energy Star study.
“Data centers are essential to our ability to process, store and transmit information in the digital age,” Eshoo said in a statement on her Web site. “They consume enormous amounts of energy. Thats why we have to ensure they operate at the highest level of efficiency.
“The EPA Energy Star study provides sound policy recommendations and strategies to increase data center energy efficiency, which will result in significant financial savings, reduce demands on power generators and have a smaller impact on the environment,” Eshoo said.
The process that led to the report got started at a meeting in Silicon Valley last February, in which IT companies and service providers were shown an eye-opening report from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and Stanford University about the rapid rate of power consumption in data centers during the last five years.
That report, written by Stanford Professor Jon Koomey,“Estimating Total Power Consumption by Servers in the U.S. and the World,” (PDF) was funded by AMD and peer-reviewed by the major server and processor makers, including Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Dell.
Easier to be Green
Reaction to the Aug. 3 EPA report was swift and generally positive.
“It should significantly boost awareness of the energy issues associated with our ever-increasing reliance on computers, and it provides a very preliminary set of benchmarks,” Eric Birch, executive vice president of thermal and airflow solution provider DegreeC in Milford, N.H., told eWEEK.
“I expect many organizations—corporations, universities, cities and states—will find various stakeholders asking new and more pointed questions about whats being done and whats the plan,” Birch said. “The questions may come from the desire to go green, or they may be mainly about the money, but by September [after everyone returns from vacation], all sorts of organizations will need to have some answers for such questions their stakeholders will be asking.”
NetApp shared a great deal of input and information with the EPA, Chris Bennett, vice president of core systems at NetApp, in Sunnyvale, Calif., told eWEEK.
“As a result, the report recognized the companys use of distributed generation and a combined heat and power system, stating that innovative uses of power are among the ways that data center operators can reduce energy usage and costs,” Bennett said.
NetApp felt it was important to engage in this process with the EPA, given the companys own success with these innovations, Bennett said.
“In fact, since implementing these solutions, we have already reduced our electric bill by $60,000, eliminated 94 tons of air conditioning, and cut our storage footprint by 75 percent,” Bennett said. “Our engineers have calculated that these energy savings are the equivalent of taking 212 cars off the road.”
The report is an important step in educating customers, policymakers and the public on opportunities to conserve energy in data centers, said Paul Perez, HP vice president for scalable data center infrastructure, in Palo Alto, Calif.
“As a leading provider of energy-efficient products for data centers, HP advocated for the legislation authorizing this report and was pleased to collaborate with the EPA to provide ideas to improve energy efficiency,” he said.
“HP is reviewing the EPAs recommendations on standards, research and development, and partnerships to determine possible adoption of policies that encourage the public and private sectors to use available technologies to reduce data center energy consumption,” Perez said.
What is next on the agenda?
“We can count on the EPA to develop an extension of the Energy Star benchmark concepts to computer servers and to promote standard efficiency metrics,” Birch told eWEEK. “I expect government at all levels to be early adopters of any new benchmarks in their own purchasing policies [just as many are now mandating no more purchases of incandescent lighting].
“I also expect many industry groups will develop and promote voluntary standards to prove they are doing something.”