600 million reasons to embrace Energy Star

Wikimedia image: Energy Star logo.

CIOs in private industry data centers have been taking advantage of a wide range of voluntary U.S. government programs and legislative regulations that promote increased energy efficiency, leading to reductions in energy expenses and greenhouse gas emissions.

Who has not been taking advantage of these programs? In my experience, it's the CIOs in federal agencies. Congress has noticed too, and is taking action.

Take, for example, the Energy Star program, which was established in 1992 by the Environmental Protection Agency to validate product efficiency claims and help businesses and individuals learn about products that have superior energy efficiency. This program has been evolving to incorporate an increasingly broader range of categories.

In 2013, the EPA added a new Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) category that enables qualifying producers of highly efficient AC or DC power systems to earn the Energy Star label. Because a large portion of the power that is used in a data center flows through these devices, this category is particularly appropriate for government data centers.

Yet while the Energy Star UPS rating system has been available for some time, many government CIOs are unaware of its existence, and even those who have heard about it are not taking advantage of the program.

Buying high-efficiency power systems is one of the most painless ways for CIOs who oversee agency data centers to cut energy usage and reduce operating expenditures. DC power systems are an essential part of data center applications that require conversion of AC power from a utility or power source into the appropriate DC voltage for ICT (information and communications technology) equipment.

There is real money at stake.  Some estimates show that federal data centers are responsible for 10 percent of all U.S. data center energy use -- costing taxpayers some $600 million annually. House and Senate legislators have advanced bills that would require agencies to be accountable for the implementation of energy-efficient equipment.

Silicon Valley's Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) would like to see a decrease in federal data center energy usage, and has sponsored the "Energy Efficient Government Technology Act," which would promote energy efficiency in federal data center IT assets and communication technologies.

A broader, bipartisan Senate energy bill, backed by New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Ohio Republican Rob Portman, is designed to create a voluntary program similar to Energy Star, which would encourage government-wide energy efficiency and could incorporate the provisions of Eshoo's bill.

Much like Rep. Eshoo, I believe that government should lead by example. There is no need to wait for legislation to force the hands of federal CIOs.  Mandates may be on their way, but there are programs in place today that can help data center managers improve the energy efficiency of their operations.

Buying high-efficiency power systems is one of the most painless ways for CIOs who oversee agency data centers to cut energy usage and reduce operating expenditures.

The Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program provides support for federal agencies to help identify energy efficient products and practices that meet federal guidelines. FEMP is also working to raise awareness of the Energy Star program.

Since high-efficiency power systems can have such a big impact on data center power bills and the environment, federal agency CIOs would do well to take advantage of the FEMP and Energy Star programs to assist with procurement and implementation of the most highly efficient energy resources available.

By utilizing already existing government programs, such as Energy Star, federal CIOs can compare data center power system vendor specifications and product capabilities to assist in the selection of systems that will reduce data center costs, save taxpayer dollars, conserve energy and decrease environmental impact. The time to take advantage of these resources is now.

About the Author

Mike Kania is with Eltek, a firm specializing in high-efficiency power electronics and energy conversion.

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