Datacentre power regulation not planned for NZ - yet

Power usage study in NZ has a way to go yet

The government has no immediate plans to emulate the Australian government and regulate power usage in datacentres.

The Australian newspaper reports that the federal government will legislate on computer room air-conditioning power usage, which will affect server rooms and computer peripherals in sleep mode. It plans to cap usage at 1 watt.

The regulatory intentions follow an agreement this month to pursue national appliance regulatory energy performance standards, The Australian says. The government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will be introduced in 2010.

State Services Commission spokesman Jason Ryan says the SSC is doing work around sustainable computing but has not got down to that level of detail yet.

The Australian government’s green programme projects energy cost savings of $A147 million and, eventually, a net benefit of $98 million after taking into account the programme cost of $49 million.

Australia will adopt a programme for datacentres being finalised by the US Environmental Protection Agency, due to be delivered next year.

Legislation on computer room air-conditioning will be introduced from mid 2009, The Australian says, quoting the energy efficiency director from the Department of the Environment.

New Zealand infrastructure specialist Paddy Hanna, technology practice manager at ICT infrastructure consultancy Cumulus, says he agrees with the sentiment and that most New Zealand computer rooms are incredibly wasteful.

“People are willing to sit there and say, ‘you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do’ and don’t put sufficient thought into how to make things more energy efficient.

“But I don’t believe datacentres and energy intensive aspects like air-conditioning can be properly regulated. There are just too many variables.

“Generally, it’s unrelated to size. Rather, it’s what’s in it and how it’s run. You could have a small datacentre using obscene amounts of power, and a big one that uses very little.

“Most New Zealand datacentre environments haven’t changed, despite consolidated computing and the amount of energy IT consumes. IT has its head in the sand.”

Hanna says that in New Zealand, emissions from IT are about the same as from the airline industry.

“But look at the scrutiny that industry is under. At the moment no one seems to have spotlighted the IT industry despite the size of its carbon footprints.

“There are great reasons to embrace better energy efficiency. Using less energy shrinks carbon footprints and saves money. So why not do it now and get compliant with regulations that come to pass, and save money in the meantime before government wields its stick.”

Hanna says it could be as simple as changing maintenance and operation parameters, applying engineering design commonsense when building or upgrading capacity, rather than “simply chucking in vendor equipment and tuning it on”.

“There’s a raft of simple measures. Look at airflow distribution. Applying a few baffles and ducting helps to get the maximum amount of cold air to where it’s needed. Building bigger rooms is the least efficient way to moderate temperature.

“Easier than that is reviewing the computer room set point temperature,” he says. “Guidelines published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (www.ashrae.org) stipulate 18-22 degrees. Most people go for 20 degrees, because it’s in the middle. But if you run your room at 21 degrees you actually use significantly less energy. One degree makes a big difference.

“Even simpler, blank out windows. It’s good for security and stops solar gain.”

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