Data Center Energy Consumption Trends

Data centers can consume up to 100 times more energy than a standard office building. Often, less than 15% of original source energy is used for the information technology equipment within a data center. Figure 1 outlines typical data center energy consumption ratios.

An illustration that features a graphic of a coal container representing 100 units of coal. This enters a graphic of a power plant, where those 100 units of coal are turned into 35 units of energy. The 35 units of energy are distributed by power lines, represented by a graphic of power lines, where 33 units are delivered to a pie chart representing data typical data center energy end use. The data center pie chart features 48% representing server load and computing operation consumption; 43% representing cooling equipment consumption; and 9% representing power conversion and distribution consumption.

Figure 1: Energy entering the data center is broken into consumption areas such as server load and computing operations, cooling equipment, and power conversion and distribution. Courtesy of DOE Industrial Technologies Program

Data center energy consumption doubled from 2000 to 2006, reaching more than 60 billion kilowatt hours per year. That number could double again by 2011. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepared Figure 2 to outline data center energy consumption from 2000 through 2006 with multiple scenarios depicting continued growth through 2011.

A graph showing a left axis of annual electricity use in billions of kilowatt hours per year starting at 0 and rising to 140. The bottom axis shows years ranging from 2000 through 2011. The energy consumption historical trend line starts just under 30 billion kilowatt hours in 2000 and rises to just over 60 billion kilowatt hours in 2006. Five future energy use projections are presented from 2006 to 2011. A box on the graph highlights Green Grid and DOE energy savings goals of 10.7 billion kilowatt hours by 2011.

Figure 2: EPA-prepared chart shows historical data center energy consumption with several future energy use projections. Courtesy of EPA

The Historical Trends Scenario line depicts data center energy consumption growth through 2011 if historical usage and technology trends continue, reaching just over 120 billion kilowatt hours of energy consumption.

The Current Efficiency Trends Scenario line depicts data center energy consumption growth based on current energy efficiency technology standards and best practices, reaching just under 110 billion kilowatt hours of energy consumption.

The Improved Operation Scenario includes several energy-saving measures such as eliminating unused servers, moderately adopting energy-efficient servers, and improving infrastructure energy efficiency by 30% through airflow management. The result reaches just over 80 billion kilowatt hours of energy consumption.

The Best Practice Scenario is the first to show a drop in data center energy consumption in 2011 compared to 2006 levels. This scenario includes energy-saving measures such as moderate consolidation of data centers, aggressive adoption of energy-efficient servers, and use of improved fans, chillers, and free cooling. The result reaches just under 40 billion kilowatt hours of energy consumption.

The State of the Art Scenario demonstrates the most drastic data center energy consumption reduction. The scenario includes all changes within the Best Practice Scenario and adds power management applications, liquid cooling, and combined heat and power. The result reaches just over 30 billion kilowatt hours of energy consumption.