I saw a great quote from John Stanley of the Uptime Institute. ”Dirty electricity is already expensive, it only looks cheap.” He was referring to energy that comes from coal, which looks like becoming even more expensive given the Cap and Trade legislation that's in the pipeline. All across the world, governments are boosting their efforts to increase output from renewable sources, and as the costs come down for renewables, governments are looking to make so called 'dirty energy' more expensive as part of their drive to lower carbon emissions.
This is already having an effect in the IT sector, specifically in the data center world. Central Washington, which has a large Hydro-electric capability from dams on the Columbia River, has already seen VMWare and Yahoo build new data centers locally, as hydro electricity is not only renewable but also relatively cheap.
If you can't relocate however, there are other solutions. Some companies are integrating renewable energy solutions into existing data centers. Emerson Network Power is just one example of companies who are already using solar energy today. The cost of such implementations is still high though, and unless the scale of the operation is large enough, the cost savings just don't stack up. Other solutions include looking at potential savings in HVAC, server consolidation and/or virtualization, and server power management.
But whatever energy efficiency methods you choose to go for, one thing is for sure, energy is not going to get any cheaper. At the Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), there was much talk of energy efficiency initiatives, but as Mark Thiele of VMWare stated, “We look at this potential for regulation as opportunity rather than a harbinger of doom, Carbon right now is at the top of the hype cycle. The reality is about efficiency, and saving our companies money. Those of us who care about the environment now have a stick to wield.”
With only COP16 in Cancun creeping up on us in November/December, and with the recent UK focus on cutbacks and efficiency, it's likely that focus on the high energy consumption of IT in general and data centers in particular will remain high for some time to come.