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Is Energy Efficiency in Data Centers Still Important?

Our digital world is supported by a vast number of data centers across the globe. Some of the largest data centers use 40MW of electricity in one facility - enough energy to power 32,000 homes! A smaller, more common type of data center that many corporations use draws enough to power up to 3,200 homes. Simply put this is a tremendous amount of energy.

In 2018, data centers were estimated to consume about 1% of all global energy -- an amount that had remained flat since 2010.[1] This consistent amount of energy consumption (shown in Figure 1) despite increases in digitalization, is likely due to the following:

1) increased use of co-location facilities and the cloud over the past decade,

2) the ability of hardware to do much more work per watt, and

3) improvements in data center infrastructure.

Chart showing energy consumption of data centers from 2010 to 2018.

Figure 1[2]

More Work to Be Done

Despite the success of data center efficiency over the past decade, the pace of digitalization is increasing. Many of the quick and easy efficiency wins - such as replacing old, inefficient products - have been claimed. Energy-saving opportunities in data centers remain that will not impact performance, but will impact your organization’s bottom line, either monetarily or in a Corporate Sustainability Report.

Where is energy-saving work still needed?

Over the past decade, the biggest advancements in energy efficiency have taken place in the data center infrastructure. This is an important part of the data center, as it represents roughly 38% of the data center energy consumption, as seen in Figure 2[3]. To date, many data center operators have not focused on the IT equipment itself for energy efficiency, which represents nearly two-thirds of the data center’s energy consumption.

Pie chart showing US Data Center Energy Use by Component.

This means there are still easy ways to improve the overall energy footprint of the data center, particularly in the hardware. ENERGY STAR offers advice on the easiest ways to do that.

  1. Start with the 5 Ways to Save. These are the five easiest things to look at in the data center to save energy and improve your bottom line.
  2. If you have already taken a look at these, then consider 16 more ways to save energy in your data center.

ENERGY STAR Ask the Expert articles focus on more recent developments related to energy consumption in the data center, such as how to measure efficiency of the server, idle power, and how to use ENERGY STAR metrics to determine the total server needs of your data center. We also provide information on the non-energy savings obtainable by deploying an efficient set of servers.

ENERGY STAR is your resource for making energy choices that count for your organization and the environment.



[2] IEA, Global trends in internet traffic, data centre workloads and data centre energy use, 2010-2019, IEA, Paris

Author: Ryan Fogle, ENERGY STAR Certified Products