Senate Bill With Data Center Energy Provisions Blocked

Legislation contains call to update government’s total U.S. data center energy consumption estimate

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

December 18, 2014

2 Min Read
Senate Bill With Data Center Energy Provisions Blocked
The U.S. Capitol. (Photo: Martin Falbisoner. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Federal energy efficiency legislation that included several provisions about data center efficiency has stalled in the Senate.

Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, blocked the bipartisan Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014, a bill the House passed in March. The bill calls for numerous energy efficiency improvement measures for buildings, water heaters, and government technology.

The bill calls for government collaboration on efficiency with data center industry experts, for creation of a certification program for assessors of energy efficiency in federal data centers, and creation of another data center efficiency metric.

But the most influential part in the section of the bill that has to do with data centers is a requirement that the Department of Energy updates the government’s official estimate of the total amount of energy all data centers in the U.S. consume.

The most current estimate the government has is from 2007. Those figures have been used extensively in the public and private sectors for a variety of purposes, from creating and advocating for policies to environmental activism, company sustainability goals, and vendor marketing materials.

The 2007 report, created by the Environmental Protection Agency, estimated that U.S. data centers had consumed about 61 billion kWh in 2006, or 1.5 percent of all electricity consumed in the country.

The report said the federal government’s data centers were responsible for 10 percent of the total. But, as the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative that kicked off in 2010 showed, we learned that far from all government agencies could actually provide a reliable estimate of their data centers’ energy consumption.

The 2007 report was also important because it contained an official acknowledgement that half of the energy most data centers used was consumed by power and cooling infrastructure and not IT equipment.

The EPA report forecasted that national data center energy consumption could double by 2011. Data centers’ 2006 peak load on the power grid was estimated to be about 7 gigawatts and would reach 12 gigawatts by 2011, according to the government’s estimates.

Needless to say, the 2007 forecasts need to be checked, and the government’s official data center energy consumption figures need to be updated, which is what the bill calls for. It also calls for an evaluation of the impact cloud computing, mobile devices, social networks, and big data technologies that have exploded over the past several years have had on data center energy demand.

Coburn is retiring at the end of the current Congress session, which, according to The Hill, means Congress may revive the energy efficiency bill in the next session.

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