Pacific Gas and Electric Company is leading the formation of a nationwide coalition of utilities to discuss and coordinate energy efficiency programs for the high tech sector, focusing on data centers.
"We have developed program and service offerings for the information technology industry, and sharing our knowledge with other utilities will drive energy savings and environmental benefits more widely in this rapidly expanding market," said Roland Risser, director of customer energy efficiency at PG&E.
PG&E offers a comprehensive portfolio of program and service offerings for the high tech sector, including financial incentives for customers who pursue energy efficiency projects in their data centers. The company was the first to offer incentives for virtualization and server consolidation, a program that is prompting customers to remove underused computing equipment using virtualization technology.
PG&E has already undertaken coordination efforts with Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric so that program offerings are consistent across the state, and is now reaching out to utilities in key markets across the country.
"The Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and Northeast are on the top of our list, because these areas have the greatest concentrations of data centers," said Mark Bramfitt, high tech segment manager for PG&E.
The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), TXU Energy, Austin Energy, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and NSTAR, have all signed on to the coalition.
Many regions across the United States are experiencing huge new demands for electric infrastructure as data center operators construct new facilities. Nationwide, existing data centers are experiencing space, cooling, and energy capacity issues. Utilities such as PG&E are offering energy efficiency programs to help customers live within their existing data centers, and to moderate the energy impact of new ones.
Data centers can use up to one hundred times the energy per square foot of typical office space, so the energy efficiency opportunities are significant. "A customer choosing from our menu of programs, which include cooling system improvements, high-efficiency power conditioning equipment retrofits, airflow management tune-ups, virtualization, and replacement of computing and data storage equipment with the latest technologies can generally drive a third to as much as half of the energy use out of their operations," according to Bramfitt.
The virtualization and server consolidation program is generating tremendous customer and industry interest, with some customers reducing their equipment counts by ninety percent or more. One PG&E customer made use of virtualization technology to consolidate 230 servers onto just 11 new machines, and is now considering a second project to consolidate an additional 1000 servers.