According to an EPA report issued in 2007, US data centers account for 1.5% of all electricity consumed and observers expect that figure to approach 3% by 2011. This understates IT's impact as these figures exclude devices, laptops, desktops, personal printers and the like which reside outside of the data center. The figures also exclude energy consumed in manufacturing IT equipment which is exceedingly high due to rapid product obsolescence. Estimates are that accounting for these factors, IT could consume as much as 5% of all electricity, which starts to exceed major appliances such as TV's.
Clearly, the IT industry's impact on energy consumption is increasing and the industry must do more to curb consumption. Led by Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), utility companies across the United States have begun to pay incentive rebates to customers that install energy efficient equipment in data centers. The uptake has been slow however electricity suppliers and the IT industry are beginning to make real progress.
Last week Wikibon spoke with Mark Bramfitt who manages the high tech incentive program for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). We asked Mark to assess progress to date and what the impact of the economic downturn would be on such incentive programs.
He indicated that energy efficiency may be one place that shines during the economic downturn. Specifically, Bramfitt told Wikibon that PG&E expects to more than double its funding for '09-'11 to $1.8 billion (yes, billion). Mark's group has reserved $50 million for data centers alone. In 2008, the data center program paid out almost $7M in incentives. By our estimates, storage technologies should account for between 10-15% of these incentives; unfortunately, they're nowhere close.
As of December 2008, customers of only two storage vendors were eligible for rebates, in the PG&E program (3PAR and Copan). A 3PAR customer in fact was the first to receive an incentive rebate from PG&E. Since that time Wikibon has assisted five other storage companies qualify their technologies for PG&E energy incentives, including: Compellent, EMC, Nexsan, Xiotech and DataDirect Networks.
Increasingly, utilities across California in major sections of Texas, and parts of Canada are beginning to launch incentive programs. While these initiatives require funding and typically approval from Public Utility Commissions, energy efficiency may as Bramfitt suggests benefit from a renewed emphasis on doing more with less.
Generally, users should be aware there are two broad types of incentives: 1) Retrofits, which require a takeout of older products and 2) New construction, which provides incentives independent of takeouts. The former tends to generate larger rebates while the latter is simpler to administer.
Action Item: As users plan green initiatives, they should investigate the potential of receiving rebates for installing qualified, energy efficient technology-- ask your vendor where they stand. Become familiar with such incentive programs as cash rebates can be obtained for very little effort.