Dems: Something Must Be Done to Curb Data Center Power

In response to the recent New York Times series on the massive power consumption used by data centers, lawmakers have asked for the status of a congressionally mandated energy-efficiency program for data centers.

On Sept. 27, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Energy and Power Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) sent letters to Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to request an update on efforts to improve energy efficiency in data centers across the country.

The letter asked Chu to provide an update as to the status of Section 453, a provision of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which called for “a voluntary national information program for those types of data centers and data center equipment and facilities that are widely used and for which there is a potential for significant data center energy savings as a result of the program.” That “Data Center Efficiency Organization” was supposed to have been set up within 90 days of the bill’s passage.

“Increasing the energy efficiency of data centers could provide significant financial savings and pollution reduction benefits,” Eshoo, Rush, and Waxman wrote. “In 2007, Congress realized the importance of this issue when it passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA).”

Section 453 of the Act focused on improving the energy efficiency of data centers, they added. “It required the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to jointly establish a voluntary national program to ‘advance the design and implementation of efficiency technologies’ and ‘produce specifications, measurements, best practices, and benchmarks that will enable data center operators to make more informed decisions about the energy efficiency and costs of data centers.’”

The law called for the program to “address data center efficiency holistically, reflecting the total energy consumption of data centers as whole systems, including both equipment and facilities.” That, in turn, would cover servers, data storage devices, and other information technology equipment; the efficiency of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, cooling, and power conditioning systems; and energy savings from the adoption of software and other data management techniques.

The trio requested a briefing and “detailed description of the agency’s efforts to the improve the energy efficiency of the nation’s data centers, including an update of section 453.

So far, the Times has fired shots at both the data-center market as a whole, and, later, specifically at Microsoft’s power play with a small Washington town. That, apparently, has prompted some Congressional hand-wringing that something must be done.

However, as the Hill reported Thursday, the Department of Energy already engages in three separate programs related to data center energy efficiency; it plans on looking into progress on the initiative in question. “The Department is reviewing the letter and we look forward to briefing Congress on all our efforts related to data centers,” Lindsey Geisler, an Energy spokeswoman, told the paper.

Will another voluntary, Congress-mandated organization tasked with lowering data-center power do any better than the initiatives already under way within the industry, such as the Open Compute Project?


Image: Orhan Cam/