Northern California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. made headlines by finding novel ways to offer rebates for energy efficiency in the data center. The company’s programs have become a model for other utilities in the state and around the world. Mark Bramfitt had headed up PG&E’s data center energy initiatives, until last Thursday when Bramfitt announced he was leaving PG&E.
John Sheputis, CEO of Fortune Data Centers and a recipient of nearly $1 million in PG&E data center efficiency rebates was at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit when Bramfitt broke the news.
“The reaction from the crowd was impressive… and for good reason. Mark is an excellent speaker, a very well known entity in the valley, and among the most outspoken people I know of regarding the broader engagement opportunities between data centers and electricity providers,” Sheputis said. “No one has done more to fund efficiency programs and award high tech consumers for efficient behavior.”
Bramfitt and PG&E started focusing on data center utility rebates and incentives in 2006. According to Bramfitt, PG&E’s data center program saved three megawatts of load in 2007, and doubled that in 2008 saving seven megawatts. But getting IT pros to jump through the hoops to get the rebates was a difficult task.
“The effort Mark was undertaking was critical and immensely difficult,” said Mark Thiele, Director Business Operations R&D at VMware and co-founder of Data Center Pulse. “I sincerely hope that PG&E hires someone to pick up where Mark left off. However, if his replacement is to be successful, I think s/he will have to do more to bring the public and government agencies into the fight. It’s possible that getting new blood, as well as renewed enthusiasm for the effort will be just what the doctor ordered.”
“PG&E had the leading program in the US to reward the end user for their efficiency choices, but it was rather difficult to obtain the rebates,” said Dean Nelson, data center director at Ebay. Many companies found the effort not worth the return. I think Mark Bramfitt had some very good successes and all the right intentions but lacked the future support within PG&E to continue. I believe it is crucial that the utilities (all of them) interface with their corporate customers, and each other, to decrease consumption and optimize efficiencies. I hope that PG&E has plans to fill this position and/or refocus the program to make it simpler for data center users to take advantage it. They have momentum and should continue. Killing it would be a mistake.”