Industry needs to do more to benefit from utility incentives for datacentres

Potential energy efficiencies from utility incentives cannot be realised without more efforts from datacentre operators and utility firms

Without adequate participation from datacentre owners and operators and greater efforts from utility providers, the potential energy savings and cost efficiencies from “utility incentives for IT” programmes will not be realised, datacentre consortium The Green Grid has warned.

With growth in the number and complexity of datacentres, the volume of electricity these IT facilities consume globally is rapidly increasing. Between 2011 and 2012 alone, power requirements in datacentres grew by 63% globally to 38GW (gigawatts), up from 24GW in 2011.

The growth suggested that rising energy costs and stricter carbon emissions regulations are not helping to limit datacentre power use. As a result, many electricity providers are turning their attention to making datacentres and IT operations more energy efficient by offering financial incentives and awareness campaigns.

“The concept of utility incentives designed specifically for datacentres is still a fairly new one,” said Chris Molloy, engineer in the Global Technology Services organisation at IBM and member of the board of directors for The Green Grid Association.

The not-for-profit industry body carried out research to determine the influence of utility incentives on datacentres and to assess whether such incentive schemes can be adapted to achieve better IT energy efficiency.

A whitepaper summarising the research findings has revealed that, until now, there is no quantitative industry-wide evidence on the effect of these incentive schemes.

“Many datacentre owners and operators may not be aware of the resources currently invested by utility companies to help promote energy efficiency,” said Molloy.

“In researching utility energy-efficiency incentive programmes targeting the datacentre sector, we found that while individual utilities have studied the effectiveness of their own programmes, no quantitative industry-wide investigation had been done,” said Corban Lester, programme development manager at Lockheed Martin and utility taskforce leader for The Green Grid.

“Our research indicates that the biggest opportunity for improvement with utility IT incentive programmes lies in market awareness, followed by simplification and streamlining of application processes.”

As a result, The Green Grid is making three recommendations to utility providers, datacentre operators, IT suppliers and CIOs.

Its first recommendation is that utility providers should take the lead in educating the industry with more awareness campaigns and training around the available efficiency programmes and services.

It further recommended that the incentive application processes should be simplified and utility companies should develop and roll out simplified calculation tools to help their datacentre customers understand IT’s energy use more clearly.

Lastly, it advised that utility incentive programmes should address directly the IT equipment, as it is typically the largest energy user in a datacentre facility and presents an important opportunity for energy savings.

“Without adequate participation from them and from more utilities investing in targeted incentive programmes for this growing industry, the potential energy and cost efficiencies will not be realised,” Molloy warned.

In July, the industry body will release the results of its research in a new whitepaper, titled Green carrots: Utility incentive programs and the IT industry.

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