Dems push White House for update on energy efficiency program

Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.), Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Bobby Rush (Ill.) sent the request in a letter Thursday to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson.

“Increasing the energy efficiency of data centers could provide significant financial savings and pollution reduction benefits,” the letter said.

A recent New York Times story said data centers waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they get from the power grid.

The lawmakers noted in the letter that data centers use 2 percent of the nation’s electricity, much of which comes from diesel generators.

Specifically, the lawmakers wanted an update on a program EPA and Energy were supposed to create as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

That voluntary energy efficiency program for data centers would have set benchmarks and best practices to achieve energy efficiency and reduce costs in data centers.

“We request that you provide us with a briefing on and detailed description of your efforts to improve the energy efficiency of data centers, including the status of implementation of [the program],” the letter said.

Energy told The Hill on Thursday that it already engages in three separate programs related to data center energy efficiency, but that it would look into progress on the initiative in question.

“The Department is reviewing the letter and we look forward to briefing congress on all our efforts related to data centers,” said Lindsey Geisler, an Energy spokeswoman.

An amendment to a bill currently in the House might create a path for some of the data center energy savings the lawmakers seek.

Part of that amendment requires Energy to conduct a study with a goal of closing at least 800 federal data centers by 2015. Energy would have to provide a report of the study to Congress.

The provision is part of what was originally a standalone energy efficiency bill sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). The measure was later slimmed down, largely to gain traction with House conservatives, and tacked onto a bill that updates energy efficiency standards for specific products.

That bill has already passed the House and the Senate. It now awaits either a full House vote or a conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions.