Congress to Vote on Data Center Power Bill

Congress is about to take up the issue of energy efficiency in federal and private data centers.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote July 12 on a bill asking that the Environmental Protection Agency conduct a study on power consumption in data centers, what chip makers and systems manufacturers are doing to increase energy efficiency and what incentives could be used to convince people to adopt energy-efficient data center technology.

House Bill 5646 was discussed by legislators July 11. If the House passes the bill, the Senate will take it up, said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Mich.

Eshoo said there was little debate on the bill July 11, and she expects easy passage by the House.

“There are two things that really drive our economy,” said Eshoo, who with Rogers is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “One is technology, and the other is energy. I think this bill is a good marriage of the two.”

She estimated that data center operators in the United States spend about $3.3 billion on power every year, and said she expects that number to increase rapidly.

The bill calls for the EPA’s Energy Star program to conduct the study and report back to Congress within 90 days. Eshoo and Steve Kester, manager of government relations for AMD, said they are seeing wide support for the bill among a number of players, including Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as industry players and environmental groups.

“This is broad-based support for something that really is a no-brainer,” said Kester, who was in Washington for the House discussion on the bill. “We have to address this. It’s a critical issue. And the good thing is that, at the end of the day, it’s going to save everyone money, the industry, the government and even the consumer who uses their computer at home.”

Kester said the bill is the first step in looking at how to manage the issue from the demand side rather than on the supply side, where the pressure is to find new sources of energy and to create more efficient products. The EPA now wants to find out how these products are being used, and how to increase their use.

“Energy efficiency and conservation are every bit as important as finding new supplies,” he said.

The bill looks at what is becoming a rising concern in the technology industry. Data center operators are seeing energy costs soar due to more power processors, increasing server density and rising power costs. The heat generated from the newer systems also is forcing businesses to spend more to cool the facilities.

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