The European Commission is considering introducing a voluntary code of conduct on energy efficiency for data centre operators.

This week, the Renewable Energies Unit of the Commission's Joint Research Centre will meet in London to discuss the idea.

If adopted, a code of conduct would be voluntary, said Antonia Mochan, spokeswoman for the science and research unit of the Commission. Those organisations that adopt it would agree to abide by certain principles or standards, she said.

The London meeting will include a session on the technical capabilities for reducing data centre energy use and what a code of conduct – if one is to be adopted – should include. Participants will include hardware manufacturers, including Intel, data centre designers and data centre operators.

The Commission has made few regulations regarding computer energy consumption, said Kevin Fisher, Intel's standards and regulations manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Environmental agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, which placed limits on greenhouse gas emissions for countries, are driving government interest in reducing energy consumption, Fisher said. And enterprises are interested in reducing utility costs.

The US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star scheme is used internationally as a specification for energy-efficient desktop computers, but the specification does not address servers.

Part of the problem is a lack of metrics for establishing efficient server power consumption, although several efforts are under way, Fisher said.

The Standard Performance Evaluation, a non-profit group based in Virginia, US is developing a first-generation benchmark for evaluating the energy efficiency of servers. The benchmark will measure energy use in conjunction with performance metrics.

In December, US President George Bush authorised the EPA to study data centre power consumption. The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab at the University of California is also study energy issues with servers, and a report is due to the US Congress in June, Fisher said.

The Renewable Energies Unit meeting is a day after the UK Energy Summit organised by Datacenter Dynamics at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London and will be held in the same venue.