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IRS Can Improve Energy Efficiency at Data Centers

WASHINGTON - While the Internal Revenue Service has taken steps to reduce the amount of energy used at its offices and facilities, more could be done to increase the energy efficiency of its data centers, according to a report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

TIGTA evaluated whether the IRS has established and implemented an effective environmental and energy program to improve data center energy efficiency.

Data centers, which contain computer hardware and software used for data processing, data storage and communications, can be more than 40 times as energy intensive as conventional office buildings, due to the high power requirements for the computers and the equipment used to cool them. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Federal servers and data centers use about $450 million in electricity annually.

According to TIGTA's report, the IRS is implementing environmental management systems at 11 facilities, which will increase operating efficiency, improve environmental performance and reduce environmental impacts.

TIGTA also identified several steps the IRS should take to improve energy efficiency in its data centers, including eliminating gaps between computer room floor tiles that allow hot and cold air to mix, spacing servers in rows to maximize the efficiency of air conditioning, and using occupancy sensors to control lights in computer rooms.

The IRS does not have policies and procedures for improving energy efficiency in its data centers or for implementing data-center energy-efficiency best practices, TIGTA found. This affects the IRS's ability to minimize energy consumption and costs, resulting in the inefficient use of resources and taxpayer funds.

"It is imperative that the IRS become more energy efficient to save taxpayer dollars and reduce the nation's consumption of oil, coal, and other natural resources," said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

TIGTA made seven recommendations, including: establishing policies and procedures to determine which best practices to implement; measuring information technology equipment energy use; reducing excess data center space; and conducting energy audits at the data centers. The IRS agreed with TIGTA's recommendations and plans to take corrective actions.

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