Data centres: Department of Industry wants mandatory NABERS targets

Discussion paper advocates mandatory energy efficiency standards for some data centres

Because the efficiency of small and medium data centres is less driven by market competition compared to larger data centres, mandatory energy efficiency standards are needed according to a joint discussion paper released by the Department of Industry and New Zealand's Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority.

The paper calls for increased uptake of the National Australian Built Environment (NABERS) energy rating for data centres in Australia and for a similar rating to be established in NZ.

The Discussion Paper on Energy Efficiency Policy Options for Australian and New Zealand Data Centres (PDF), says that the original NABERS rating for buildings has driven "energy efficiency improvements" in the commercial building sector in Australia. New Zealand has a similar rating system for buildings called NABERSNZ.

The NABERS rating for data centres was launched in Australia in February 2013 and rates the building infrastructure and IT equipment.

CIOs, IT managers and co-location tenants can use the rating to assess, compare and improve the energy performance of their facility.

"The data centre infrastructure method is based on a well-established metric and therefore creating additional policies to further increase adoption of NABERS data centre infrastructure is recommended," the report states.

"New Zealand would benefit from adopting a suitable version of NABERS for data centres over the next few years," it continues.

The report classifies data centres into four sizes:

  • Small data centres from 10 kilowatts (kW) to 150 kW
  • Medium data centres from 150 kW to 750 kW
  • Enterprise data centres from 750 kW to 2 500 kW
  • Mega data centres 2500 kW and larger

If 75 per cent of enterprise and mega data centres adopted the NABERS data centre infrastructure rating, this could save 3.5 terawatt hours (TWh) of power by 2030, the report states.

According to the report, small and medium data centre efficiency is less driven by market competition and mandatory efficiency standards are needed.

"Building codes based on a NABERS target and its equivalent technical specifications are recommended. If this was introduced in 2020, it is estimated to cumulatively save 3.4 TWh by 2030."

According to the report, the maximum electricity savings in 2025 are predicted to be 3.8 TWh, a reduction of 35 per cent.

"Whilst this assumes that all individual data centres improve in efficiency, the majority of the savings arise from over 60 per cent of small data centres being retired."

As small data centres are shut down, they will be replaced by cloud services housed in enterprise and mega data centres that use 20 per cent of the energy, read the report.

"Implementing energy efficiency measures could reduce annual energy consumption by 11 per cent in 2025 with cumulative energy savings of 10.8 TWh in Australia and 1.3 TWh in New Zealand by 2030," the report states.

Data centre trends

There are more than 40,000 data centres over 10 kW in Australia and New Zealand, according to the report.

Ninety five per cent of these are small — between 10 and 150 kW — with enterprise and mega data centres over 750 kW accounting for just 0.4 per cent of the total number of data centres, read the report.

However, by total energy consumption small data centres represented 39 per cent of energy consumption in 2013 followed by medium data centres (21 per cent), enterprise data centres (32 per cent) and mega datacentres (8 per cent).

The report was commissioned by the Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) Program, a joint initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments and the New Zealand Government.

People who want to make a submission to the discussion paper can send an email to: E3.appliance@industry.gov.au. The deadline is 18 July, 2014.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

Tags NABERSgreen datacentresdata centresenergy efficiency

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