August 1, 2011 – Data centers continue to take up electricity at a great rate, though at a slower clip in recent years than previously anticipated. That change is due to reduced installation and not efficiency improvements, according to a new study from IT energy analyst Jonathan G. Koomey.

The study, “Worldwide Electricity Used in Data Centers,” was an update to Koomey’s study of the same name from 2008. Servers remain the largest and most vital energy drains in data centers. The new study showed that electricity used by data centers grew by more than 50 percent from 2005 to 2010, much less than the rate it doubled from 2000 to 2005. In the past five years in the U.S., data center energy consumption increased by 36 percent, two-thirds less than the rate it consumed in the five years prior, according to Koomey.

In all, data centers counted for a little more than 1 percent of the total electricity use from the grid. While that figure was slightly higher in the U.S. – between 1.7 percent and 2.2 percent from 2005 to 2010 – it was “significantly lower” than forecast by the EPA in 2007.

Compared with previous estimates, energy use by data centers is down slightly more than 1 percent. In a summary of those findings, Koomey attributed that to “a lower server installed base than was previously predicted rather than the efficiency improvements anticipated in the [EPA] report to Congress.”

Server installation was about 8 percent lower in the last five years than in previous estimates, likely due to the global economic slowdown, the study indicated.

In an instance outlined by Koomey from one high-profile data center operator, Google estimated its upper bound usage, which only ranked it at less than 1 percent of electricity consumption from all data centers worldwide.

The report was commissioned by The New York Times. To download a PDF of the 24-page assessment and read Koomey’s takeaways from the findings, click here

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