EPA Sets Energy Star Specifications for Computer Servers

May 20, 2009

Some computer servers will soon carry the Energy Star label, thanks to new specifications finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 18. Computer servers are the workhorses of the Internet, serving up text, image, and video files each time someone visits a Web page. To earn the Energy Star label, servers will have to employ efficient power supplies that don't degrade power quality and will have to include advanced power management features. To help server owners minimize their energy consumption, servers must also be able to measure their real-time power use, processor utilization, and air temperature, and server manufacturers must provide purchasers with information on their server's energy performance and energy-saving capabilities. On average, computer servers that carry the Energy Star label will be 30% more energy efficient than standard servers. Energy Star is joint program of DOE and the EPA. See the EPA press release and the Energy Star Web page for computer servers.

Electronic devices such as computer servers can be either villains or heroes for energy efficiency, depending on your viewpoint. The villainous viewpoint was expressed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) last week, when it released a report warning that the global energy use of household electronic devices may triple by 2030, unless policies are enacted to make them more energy efficient. The report notes that 15% of household electricity consumption goes toward electronic devices such as televisions, computers, and mobile phones, and their share of household electricity use is steadily rising. However, available technologies could slow the growth in consumption to less than 1% per year through 2030, avoiding the need for another 260,000 megawatts of new power generating capacity, which is more than today's generating capacity in Japan. See the IEA press release and a summary of the report (PDF 245 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Of course, computer chips serve as the brains for today's electronic devices, and semiconductors are the building blocks for computer chips, sensors, and many other electronic components. But semiconductors are the heroes of energy efficiency, not the villains, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Had the U.S. economy grown to its present size using technologies from the mid-1970s, we'd be using 20% more electricity today, according to a new ACEEE report. In fact, the U.S. economy could expand by more than 70% through 2030 and still use 11% less electricity than today, thanks to energy efficiency gains from semiconductor-based technologies. For instance, semiconductors enable the improved operation of motors and help provide a variety of "smart" energy solutions, from smart appliances and smart buildings to the Smart Grid. See the ACEEE press release and report.