Just 54 data centers have volunteered to provide data on their energy usage to the Environmental Protection Agency, which hopes to use the information to develop an Energy Star certification for data center facilities. The EPA had hoped to have at least 100 data centers participate in its National Data Center Energy Efficiency Program, but will commence the one-year analysis on June 1 with as many facilities as have signed up at that time, the EPA told Federal Computer Week.
365 Main, which has five data centers, has announced that it will participate in the EPA program. Emerson Network Power, a leading vendor of power and cooling products for data center industry, has been publicly encouraging its customers to take part in the EPA program.
The EPA is looking for more than 100 organizations with data centers of at least 1,000 square feet to voluntarily provide energy use data that will help develop the Energy Star Data Center Infrastructure Rating, which will help data center operators and their customers evaluate the energy efficiency of specific facilities. Participants must collect 12 consecutive months of IT and building (whole building if stand-alone or data center portion only if within a larger building) energy use data, and submit the data by June 1, 2009. Additional details and instructions on how to participate are available at the Energy Star web site (PDF).
The low participation to date suggests that few data center operators are eager for the government to know more about their facilities, despite assurances that information shared with the EPA will be masked and untraceable. Many major players in the IT industry would prefer that the data center industry effectively police itself, using best practices and standards to document their progress on energy efficiency. Recent headlines depicting data centers as energy hogs may lead to increased scrutiny.
An example: The press coverage emerging from the recent Uptime Institute/McKinsey report made plenty of headlines, but they weren’t the kind that put the data center industry in a favorable light. Here’s a sampling”
- Data centers Are Becoming Big Polluters, Study Finds (New York Times)
- Data Centers Expected to Pollute More than Airlines by 2020 (Slashdot)
- Data Centers Big Polluters, says Study: The WHIR notes that data centers “produce higher gas emissions than the countries of Argentina and the Netherlands.”
- Time to Get Rid of Those Two-Stroke Diesel Data Centers: AllThingsD illustrates this story with a photo of smokestacks belching forth pollutants.
- Data Centers, Power Consumption, and Global Warming – Will the web crash?
Those headlines, along with the low participation by the industry in the voluntary EPA program, could leave lawmakers with the impression that the industry is not doing enough to address its soaring energy usage. There’s still some time left before the June 1 deadline. If the Energy Star program ends up being undersubscribed, politicians interested in energy reform could conclude that it’s time to put down the carrots and start searching for sticks.