Utilities Unite to Address Data Center Power

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Hoping to slow the enormous use of power by data centers, electric utilities from across the U.S. are forming a national coalition to coordinate energy efficiency programs for data center operators. The effort, led by California’s Pacific Gas & Electric, hopes to address the rising power loads at existing facilities and extraordinary requests for capacity for new data center projects.

PG&E said the coalition will focus on incentive programs to reward data center operators that use virtualization to reduce the demand for power. Data center power usage has risen dramatically in the past two years, driven by growing adoption of blade servers and high-density computing. The formation of the utility coalition, coming on the heels of the recent Silicon Valley “energy summit” with federal officials, serves notice that the issue has expanded well beyond the data center industry.

PG&E was the first utility to offer incentives for virtualization and server consolidation, as well as the use of outside air to cool data centers. PG&E discussed its effort this morning at teh

PG&E has already undertaken coordination efforts with Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric so that program offerings are consistent across the state, and is now reaching out to utilities in key markets across the country. The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), TXU Energy, Austin Energy, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and NSTAR, have all signed on to the coalition. PG&E will also seek the participation of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, which has 85 utilities as members.

“The Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and Northeast are on the top of our list, because these areas have the greatest concentrations of data centers,” said Mark Bramfitt, High Tech Segment Manager for PG&E.

“We have developed program and service offerings for the information technology industry, and sharing our knowledge with other utilities will drive energy savings and environmental benefits more widely in this rapidly expanding market,” said Roland Risser, Director of Customer Energy Efficiency at PG&E.


Utilities from active markets for data center construction noted the need to address energy efficiency with these projects, including Washington State. “The Northwest is experiencing substantial growth in data centers with new facilities recently constructed or announced by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others,” said Stacey Hobart, Manager of Corporate Marketing for the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. “With relatively low-cost power co-located with access to high-bandwidth internet infrastructure, many more facilities are projected to be landing in the four-state area in the near future. The electric load represented by these facilities is significant and it is in everyone’s best interest to build-in as much efficiency as possible.”

Many regions across the U.S. are experiencing huge new demands for electric infrastructure as data center operators construct new facilities. Nationwide, existing data centers are experiencing space, cooling, and energy capacity issues. Utilities such as PG&E are offering energy efficiency programs to help customers live within their existing data centers, and to moderate the energy impact of new ones.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.