Will Congress finally require agencies to make data centers more energy efficient?

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A bipartisan bill that would require federal agencies to make their data centers more energy-efficient passed the House and is scheduled for consideration by the Senate’s energy committee.

The House overwhelmingly passed the Energy Efficient Government Technology Act Sept. 9. Under the bill, each agency would be expected to work with the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency on a strategy for procuring and maintaining energy-saving information technology at data centers.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to approve the bill during a markup on Wednesday.

“The government operates over 2,000 data centers to store everything from Social Security tax records to e-books at the Library of Congress, and the Department of Energy estimates that their energy usage could be slashed in half simply by implementing best practices and existing technologies,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., the bill’s sponsor, said in the announcement.

Best practices include advanced metering infrastructure, building-energy management and secure telework and travel substitution tools.

The legislation would see DOE create a program certifying energy practitioners to evaluate data center energy use and efficiency opportunities.

Information on data center energy use would also be made publicly available to encourage consolidation and optimization.

Previous versions of Eshoo’s bill passed the House in 2014, 2016 and 2017 but never made it past the Senate.

“The importance of data centers in the everyday lives of Americans often goes unnoticed, but the federal government certainly depends on these energy-consuming servers as use continues to grow,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a cosponsor of the bill, said in a statement.

The administration’s update to the Data Center Optimization Initiative policy this year includes some guidance for how agencies should “consider opportunities for investments that may yield long-term savings through energy efficiency.” However, it stops short of requiring advanced energy metering for agency data centers — such tools are “expected,” the policy says, but they can be costly and “it is not useful for agencies to install these tools in a facility they are planning on closing,” which is ultimately the policy’s goal.

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Anna Eshoo, Congress, Data centers, Department of Energy (DOE), energy efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), information technology, Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
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