Utility Coalition Targets Data Center Power Use

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Nineteen utilities from around the U.S. will gather today in San Francisco to discuss collective approaches to “dramatically reduce” power usage in data centers. PG&E has taken the lead in organizing the new group, the Utility IT Energy Efficiency Coalition, and is convening today’s meeting.

The expectation is that the discussion will focus on carrots instead of sticks, an approach PG&E has used in incentive programs to encourage adoption of virtualization, free cooling and other energy-saving techniques.

“The opportunities for dramatic energy efficiency improvements in this market are drawing the attention of leading utilities across the United States,” said Mark Bramfitt, principal program manager of customer energy efficiency at PG&E. “We’re sharing program and service delivery models to drive nationwide adoption, helping to secure a sustainable energy future for the industry, and driving a positive impact on the environment through significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”


The new coalition includes 24 utilities from across the US and Canada, including five major power providers in California (Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, City of Palo Alto, and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) as well as utilities from the Pacific Northwest, Texas, New York, and Canada.

“To the extent possible, the utilities intend to drive toward consistent energy efficiency program and service offerings, leveraging the support of vendors and service providers to the IT industry,” said the announcement from PG&E.

PG&E’s High Tech Energy Efficiency Incentives program has industry support from VMware, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, IBM and Rackable Systems. The incentives are based on the amount of energy savings achieved through data center consolidation, and PG&E customers in northern and central California must apply for the rebate prior to pursuing a virtualization project. In addition to the rebate, customers can expect to save $300 to $600 in annual energy costs for each server that is removed, the utility said.

Bramfitt has led an effort to encourage other utilities to offer similar programs, and has found a receptive audience from utilities in data center hubs, including Austin Energy in Texas and NYSERDA in New York state. (see our guide to utility incentive programs for data centers for more).

If the utilities needed additional motivation, recent data from The Uptime Institute found that energy use among the top tier of data centers accelerated in 2006-2007, rising at a 24 percent annual growth rate. “If current data center power consumption continues to grow at the current rate, 10 new coal-fired or nuclear power plants will be needed by 2010 and 20 more (for a total of 30) by 2015,” the Institute reports.

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.