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It's time for tech to rein in energy waste

Scientist Jonathan Koomey and AMD exec Mario Rivas say the amount of energy required to run data centers has gotten out of hand.

Over the past 18 months, industry leaders have set aside competitive differences to focus on reducing the amount of energy it takes to power our IT economy. With fossil fuel combustion and energy use responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., large-scale reductions need to take place--from the manufacturing to the consumption of energy itself. To make this a priority, energy use needs to become highly visible on the world scene.

We recently calculated the energy consumed by data centers, a critical sector of the IT industry. The findings show that in the U.S. alone, millions of servers--the backbone of our IT infrastructure--run every second of every day of the year, consuming 45 billion kilowatt-hours annually. That's enough electricity to power the state of Mississippi.

The cost is no less shocking. Data centers run up about $2.7 billion in energy bills in the U.S. alone and $7.2 billion across the world. What's more, the study shows that data center power consumption has roughly doubled from 2000 to 2005. Faced with such growth rates, delivering the technology that the world demands without delivering as power-efficient products as possible is quite simply an unsustainable model.

Within the IT industry, we've known that our data center energy consumption is significant, but now we know just how significant it is.

The numbers from the study are a wake-up call. Within the IT industry, we've known that our data center energy consumption is significant, but now we know just how significant it is. We believe we need to continue our current collaborations and also believe it's time to up the ante. The voluntary actions within the IT industry reflect an important trend: the industry's ability, and interest, to self-regulate when it comes to energy efficiency.

However, we need help.

The assistance and direction from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy over the past year have added a critical perspective to our ongoing conversations, and we're eager to see it continue.

As a result of the federal government's approval of HR 5646 in December, representatives of government and industry are meeting this week in Santa Clara, Calif., to begin identifying realistic and lasting solutions. We would challenge all participants in the meeting--as well as the nation's business leaders--to bring the issue of IT energy efficiency from the data center to the boardroom. Here is what we need:

• An annual report on energy efficiency in U.S. data centers, giving the industry an energy "report card" to measure our progress.

• On an individual level, businesses need a mechanism to measure their own progress, and who better to help them develop this tool than the companies that deliver the technology?

• Industry groups must discover avenues to true cooperation in the development of whole system redesign--for too long, data center managers have been challenged with siloed products. But if we work together to innovate energy-efficient systems from power supply to cooling fan, we can move closer to developing truly energy-efficient data centers for our future.

The EPA's national Energy Star program gives us a good example of how private industry can voluntarily work with government to make energy-efficient products a competitive differentiator in the market.

Let's move this beyond home appliances to the technology that drives the Internet. This is an exciting moment for the IT industry. And if we prioritize the incredible benefits by reducing our energy consumption, we can make a real and lasting impact on the future of businesses and the planet.