Data Centres and Utilities Must Collaborate to Realise Energy Efficiency

Utilities and data centres must overcome their own challenges before they can collaborate efficiently.
Published: Wed 08 Oct 2014

Data centers are growing in number and complexity and their need for electricity is escalating rapidly. It would therefore make sense for utilities to focus their attention on how to influence the data centre and information technology (IT) markets with financial incentives, outreach and education programs.

Data Centers and utilities failing to communicate

The Green Grid Association, a non-profit global consortium dedicated to driving resource efficiency in data centres and IT, set out to determine the influence of utility incentives on data centres and whether incentive programs can be adapted to achieve better results.

The results of the research were published in a white paper titled: Green Carrots: Utility Incentive Programs and the IT Industry. The paper identifies a number of roadblocks to progress as the power industry and the data centre industry seek to work together to make efficiencies.

According to the research, data centre operators and utility companies are failing to help each other make efficiencies. In addition, there appears to be a lack of understanding and a failure to communicate, from both sides, as the industry fails to harness cost and energy savings.

Data centre owners are accused of a lack of knowledge, with many unaware of the incentives available to them from utility companies. Utility companies, in turn, are criticized for the lack of self-awareness across their own industry.

According to The Green Grid, many individual utilities have studied their effectiveness but no industry-wide investigation has been carried out.

Subsequently, there has been no cross-fertilization of ideas and no collaboration. Research into the utilities has been too narrow, the white paper results show.

Utility incentives must be communicated more effectively

Corban Lester, program development manager at Lockheed Martin and utility task force leader for The Green Grid said research found that individual utilities have studied the effectiveness of their own programs, but no quantitative industry-wide investigation has been done. "The biggest opportunity for improvement with utility IT incentive programs lies in market awareness, followed by simplification and streamlining of application processes,” Lester said.

"The concept of utility incentives designed specifically for data centres is still a fairly new one. Many data centre owners and operators may not be aware of the resources currently invested by utility companies to help promote energy efficiency. And, without adequate participation from them and from more utilities investing in targeted incentive programs for this growing industry, the potential energy and cost efficiencies will not be realized," said Chris Molloy, distinguished engineer in the Global Technology Services organization at IBM and member of the board of directors for The Green Grid Association.

Among the expected recommendations are that utilities should take the lead in:

 

- Educating the market through information programs and training on efficiency

- Simplifying incentive application processes

- Offering simplified calculation tools to help customers

- Providing utility incentive programs that offer ways to address IT equipment, which is typically the largest energy user in a data center.

 

The research was carried out by Global consortium, The Utility Task Force.

Further reading

The Green Grid – Green Carrots: Utility Incentive Programs and the IT Industry [pdf]