Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency refers to a system or device’s ability to use as little energy as possible to perform a particular task or function within acceptable limits. Essentially, it means using energy in the most effective way possible and minimizing waste. There are many applications, such as energy-efficient windows or homes, but for the purpose of understanding energy efficiency from an NVIDIA perspective, we’ll focus on the context of data centers.

What Is Energy Efficiency?

Energy efficiency refers to maximizing the amount of computational work completed for the amount of energy consumed and is typically measured in “tasks per kilowatt-hour.” This isn’t the same as power efficiency

Energy efficiency is crucial for building a sustainable future, and optimizing data center energy usage is a key part of this effort. This involves minimizing waste and unnecessary energy consumption while keeping computing equipment and systems running smoothly. By improving data center energy efficiency, we can lower operating costs and reduce the environmental impact of data centers. Strategies for achieving this goal include using more efficient hardware and software and optimizing cooling systems. Prioritizing energy efficiency in data centers can help build a more sustainable and resilient digital infrastructure for the future.

How Is Energy Efficiency Different From Power Efficiency?

Energy and power are related quantities, but they’re different. Energy is power times time, whereas power is energy per unit of time. 

Power efficiency is related to energy efficiency, but it’s a rate like the speed of a car and is usually measured in “tasks per watt.” 

Why Is Energy Efficiency Important?

There are several reasons why energy efficiency is crucial for data center management and operations:

  1. Cost savings: Data centers consume a significant amount of energy, which translates into a substantial operating cost. By implementing energy-efficient practices, data centers can reduce their energy consumption and lower operating costs, resulting in significant overall cost savings.
  2. Capacity and scalability: In the era of power-capped data centers, maximum energy efficiency allows each data center to perform more computing within its maximum power budget.
  3. Reputation and compliance: Customers and stakeholders are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of data centers. By adopting energy-efficient practices, businesses can improve their reputation while minimizing the risks associated with utility cost uncertainty.
  4. Environmental impact: Nearly 75 percent of global carbon emissions come from the production and consumption of energy. This is because most electrical energy is generated by burning fossil-based fuels. At 460 terawatt-hours of annual electricity consumption, data centers comprise only a small fraction of this number, about 2 percent. But, data centers are expected to nearly triple their electricity use share to 5 percent. By improving energy efficiency, data centers can reduce their carbon footprint.

Greenhouse gas emissions by business sector as of 2020.
(Source: “Sector by Sector: Where Do Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Come From?”)

Costs and Solutions for Achieving Data Center Energy Efficiency

Listed below are a few examples of the many costs and solutions data center operators can adopt to optimize and budget for energy-efficient data center strategies. Ultimately, the best approach will depend on the specific needs and constraints of each data center.


  • Upfront equipment costs: Upgrading to more energy-efficient hardware can require a significant initial investment.
  • Staff training: Implementing new software or processes to improve energy efficiency may require training for staff members.
  • Maintenance costs: Some energy-efficient technologies require ongoing maintenance to ensure optimal performance.
  • Porting costs: Adoption of high-efficiency accelerated hardware may require changes to existing CPU-based applications.
  • Data center buildout: Significant capital investments with long-term efficiency pay off—such as selecting data center locations with access to renewable energy and where ambient temperature and humidity allow for high-efficiency cooling solutions.
  • Switching to the cloud: Pay as you go (PAYG) is more expensive, but power usage effectiveness (PUE) is extremely high and most cloud service providers offer renewably powered instances.


  • Virtualization: This technology allows multiple virtual servers to run on a single physical server, reducing the total number of servers needed and improving overall energy efficiency. It should be noted, however, that virtualization isn’t appropriate for all workloads.
  • Energy-efficient hardware: Using more efficient servers, storage systems, and networking equipment can significantly reduce energy consumption.
  • Cooling optimization: Implementing cooling strategies like hot and cold aisle containment, variable-speed fans, and direct liquid cooling can improve cooling efficiency and reduce energy use.
  • Renewable energy: Using or purchasing renewable energy like solar, wind, geothermal, or hydroelectric power can reduce reliance on fossil fuels and lower energy costs.
  • Energy-efficient practices: Adopting best practices like server consolidation, load balancing, energy-aware scheduling, and automatic power management can improve energy efficiency without requiring significant hardware upgrades.

How Can You Get Started With Energy Efficiency?

Improving data center energy efficiency is critical to reducing carbon emissions and lowering operating costs. Whether you’re looking for short-term or long-term solutions, there are a variety of strategies you can implement to get started.

Short-Term Solutions

  • Redeploy workloads that can run on accelerated computing to accelerated platforms.
  • Negotiate with municipal power companies for low- or no-carbon power options.
  • Augment current data centers with accelerated computing and use liquid cooling if your data center supports it.
  • Purchase carbon offset credits to mitigate the consumption of polluting forms of energy.
  • Offer clients the option of low- or no-carbon products (with quantitative carbon estimates) with uplifted prices.

Medium-Term Solutions

  • Rework or port unaccelerated workloads to accelerated computing platforms.
  • Invest in renewable self-generation (wind, solar) and off-peak energy storage technologies.
  • Deploy smart network interface cards (SmartNICs) with onboard Arm®-based CPUs to maximize the energy efficiency of data processing and movement.

Long-Term Solutions

  • Relocate data centers to extreme northern or southern latitudes for ambient cooling.
  • Build data centers with liquid cooling infrastructure.
  • Build data centers in locations with access to 100 percent renewable energy.

Explore More Resources

Power Efficiency Explained

Want more information on power efficiency? Check out the NVIDIA Power Efficiency Glossary page.

Check Out Energy Efficiency Blogs

From news highlighting the latest breakthroughs in energy efficiency to deep-dive technical walkthroughs showcasing how you can use NVIDIA solutions, there’s a blog to answer your energy-efficiency questions.

Next Steps

Explore NVIDIA's resource library for energy efficiency.