Enlisting Data Centers in the Campaign Against Energy Costs

When robber Willie Sutton wanted some quick cash, he went where the money was—banks. By the same principle, though more benignly, when utilities want to save energy, they head to where the demand is — including big data centers.

Data centers cram energy-hogging computers into tight cages like hens in an Arkansas chicken factory. By one estimate they consumed more than 85 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2010 across the country. Since about 20 percent of them are located in the Pacific region—many in Silicon Valley and other parts of Northern California—PG&E has long promoted the latest energy-efficient practices in the industry as part of its energy-efficiency mission.