Saving Energy in Server Rooms and Closets

Issue Paper
April 11, 2012

Small server rooms house over half of all computer servers in the United States, accounting for approximately 1 percent of all electricity use in the country. Administrators of server rooms have been slow to adopt best practices in energy efficient operations, despite the fact that server rooms represent a large share of data centers’ electricity use. A new survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) suggests this gap is poised to increase over the coming years without policy intervention.

The NRDC estimates that energy waste in U.S. server rooms and closets represents the equivalent output of 7 medium-size coal-fired power plants (500 MW) and costs U.S. businesses over $2 billion per year in electricity costs. Yet most of the attention of the market on energy conservation is focused on large data centers, which are easier and more profitable to address.

Technologies to significantly reduce energy waste in server rooms—such as virtualization, power management, and cloud computing—are very cost-effective, and are already broadly deployed in other market segments. These technologies provide many business benefits other than energy savings. In small server rooms many of the same benefits are available, but the opportunity is often missed because of a lack of information, expertise, time, or incentives.

States and utilities can help to stimulate this large yet hard-to-reach market through incentives, marketing, and outreach, as well as training and education programs for IT managers of small server rooms and the IT service provider firms that support them.