There has been and will probably continue to be a significant amount of world wide press on energy concerns and ecological impacts. The concern is so widespread that government agencies have renewed or escalated their plans to curb energy consumption and mitigate that aspect of global warming. The renewed focus has escalated governmental investigations and policies on computing devices. The primary organizations on the technical parameters and policies in the US are the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE). The enhancement of tools such as the EnergyStar 1 and Federal Energy Management Policy (FEMP) 2 has received attention and proliferation to other worldwide regulatory agencies in Europe, Japan, Canada, China/PRC, Taiwan, Australia, and other countries.
The EPA through Energy Star enacted a significant revision to the specifications for computing devices effective July, 2007 10 and is commissioning an update to that specification for July, 2009 16. The EPA, along with it's research consultants, also investigated and published its assessment of energy usage in data centers, currently determined as ~ 60 Billion kWhrs annually in 2006 (~1.5% of electricity consumption in the US) with potential of hitting 120 B-kWhr/yr by 2011 3 . The data center report, world-wide focus on energy, and ecological impact has added political focus to accelerate energy efficiency programs & policies.
Intel has and continues to pursue research and development of energy efficiency technologies and programs that aid in the energy efficiency and ecological sustainability of the IT infrastructure. Intel was one of the first computer companies to establish Energy Star criteria for computers in the 1990's. Intel continues to be a key developer of standards such as ACPI, advanced energy storage techniques, and power management tools we see in mobile devices today. Intel continues to be a key developer in creating an industry-wide materials analysis and conversions to remove hazardous substances from our internal operations and products that Intel and the industry delivers (e.g. ReductionOfHazardous Substances program- RoHS 4 ). Intel is also a significant contributor to current programs, such as Energy Star , European Code of Conduct 5 , California's PIER program 6, Climate Savers 7, The Green Grid 8, and a host of other consortia. Intel's technical contributions are not only to worldwide government and industry organizations, but, also research groups such as Lawrence Berkeley National Labs 9.
There are, however, numerous technical perspectives of options to promote, incent, and achieve energy efficiency in IT infrastructure and computing devices. A key regulatory and industry disagreement is curbing energy consumption verses incentivizing energy efficiency. As one can observe in the Energy Star v4.0 specification10 , there exist the paradigmn that simply setting limits on "inactive" states will save energy. Though this may work for single function devices such as a light bulb or a washing machine, multi-purpose devices and every changing applications make computing devices and services a much more difficult task. The difficulty is to not impact the function or purpose, whereas reduce energy consumption to support the purpose. A simple example of the resulting mixed incentive is evident in servers. A 21kW rack of yr2006 servers, would replace the function of many racks of yr2002 servers totaling 128kW; however, incentives based on "inactive" states promote the purchase of lower capability yr2002 based servers. Such a mix incentive policy not only curtails true energy efficiency innovations in the industry; but, places IT on a path of ever increasing energy consumption in pace with compute demand.
Intel's (and indeed the industry's) target is to modulate and track energy consumption to the "useful-work" accomplish (achieving the purpose). The key challenge is to assess the usage models per market, and develop energy efficiency metrics and guidelines which promote ever improving energy efficiencies. Examples in this area, Intel is pursuing include, power_conversion efficiencies (Climate Savers), data center metrics and practices (The Green Grid), benchmarks (SPEC.org 11, ECMA 12), and power_management software (LessWatts.org 13, etc). Though such activity takes time, the urgency impressed upon the industry by worldwide regulatory agencies, is critical for ecological sustainability. The alternative of using a mixed incentive approach (which also leads rise to more power consuming devices rather than fewer) will detract and divert the industry from holistic innovations to energy efficiency.
1 Energy Star, http://www.energystar.gov/
2 Federal Energy Management Program, www.eere.energy.gov/femp
3 EPA Data_center Energy Report, www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/prod_development/downloads/EPA_Datacenter_Report_Congress_Final1.pdf
4 Reduction Of Hazardous Substance (RoHS), www.rohs.eu/english/
5 European Code of Conduct, http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l27064.htm
6 California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER), www.energy.ca.gov/pier
7 Climate Savers, http://www.climatesaverscomputing.org/
8 The Green Grid, http://www.thegreengrid.org/
9 Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, http://www.lbl.gov/
10 Energy Star v4.0, www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/product_specs/program_reqs/Computer_Spec_Final.pdf
11 Spec.org, http://www.spec.org/
12 European Computer Manufacturers Association, ECMA, www.ecma-international.org/
13 Lesswatts.org, http://www.lesswatts.org/