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Commentary

How Much Green Does The Stimulus Act Have For Computing?

I'm hoping that somewhere tucked in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are provisions for the General Printing Office to upgrade the servers it used to distribute the stimulus bill. I finally got through at 3 a.m., after six hours of trying. I could have accepted and withdrawn my nomination for a Cabinet position in less time.
I'm hoping that somewhere tucked in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are provisions for the General Printing Office to upgrade the servers it used to distribute the stimulus bill. I finally got through at 3 a.m., after six hours of trying. I could have accepted and withdrawn my nomination for a Cabinet position in less time.OK, enough whining. What's in it for green computing? Tons of eco-friendly dollars, it seems. I say, "seems," because the act is a mish-mash of very specific requirements (for example, the thermal efficiency of home-heating systems eligible for tax credit) and very vague language (one provision for state spending of stimulus funds mandates:


"The applicable State regulatory authority will seek to implement, in appropriate proceedings for each electric and gas utility, with respect to which the State regulatory authority has ratemaking authority, a general policy that ensures that utility financial incentives are aligned with helping their customers use energy more efficiently and that provide timely cost recovery and a timely earnings opportunity for utilities associated with cost-effective measurable and verifiable efficiency savings, in a way that sustains or enhances utility customers' incentives to use energy more efficiently. "

Two areas that may yield some green computing gems are $4.5 billion for renovations and repairs to General Services Administration federal buildings, focused on increasing energy efficiency and conservation, and $6.3 billion to help state and local governments make investments that make them more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions.

The first of these, the $4.5 billion, is "to convert GSA facilities to High-Performance Green buildings as defined in P.L. 110-140." It includes $4 million for the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, authorized in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and $3 million for a "training and apprenticeship program for construction, repair and alteration of Federal buildings."

Section 434 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires, among other things that:


"… each federal agency ensure that major replacements of installed equipment (such as heating and cooling systems), or renovation or expansion of existing space, employ the most energy efficient designs, systems, equipment, and controls that are life-cycle cost effective."

It is in that section -- sandwiched in between a section specifying reductions in energy use (30% for federal buildings by 2015) and prohibiting federal agencies from leasing buildings that have not earned an EPA Energy Star label -- that money for the greening of federal data centers might come from.

Section 453 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, by the way, directs the U.S. Department of Energy to initiate a voluntary national information program for widely used data centers and data center equipment for which there is significant potential for energy savings. DOE also is tasked with helping to devise strategies to improve energy efficiency at these data centers.

There are other -- and much larger -- green projects in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, of course. They include:

• Reliable, Efficient Electricity Grid: $11 billion for research and development, pilot projects, and federal matching funds for the Smart Grid Investment Program to modernize the electricity grid, making it more efficient, secure, and reliable and build new power lines to transmit clean, renewable energy from sources throughout the nation.

• Renewable Energy Loan Guarantees: $6 billion for loans for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects.

Details on both these items are expected in a news conference today at noon held by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Participants will include Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, energy executive T. Boone Pickens, and Center for American Progress Action Fund President John Podesta.