A new study conducted by a Stanford University consulting professor contradicts a 2007 report from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding future data center power consumption, despite the fact that data centers are being built at a record pace.

The 2007 EPA report suggested that data center power consumption would nearly double from 2005 to 2010. Estimated power usage was set at 100 billion kilowatt hours, resulting in a total cost of $7.4 billion.

The new report, prepared by Jonathan G. Koomey at the request of the New York Times, reveals that worldwide data center power consumption only increased roughly 56 percent from 2005 to 2010. In the United States, power consumption only increased by 36 percent.

A growing number of factors have led to the increase in data center usage over the past half decade. Cloud computing, content streaming services and the social networking boom have all contributed to the demand for more server space. Internet connected computer and smartphone ownership is at an all-time high.

On the flip side, the study points to several reasons why consumption didn't hit the projected numbers from the EPA's 2007 report. At the top of the list is the global recession.

"Mostly because of the recession, but also because of a few changes in the way these facilities are designed and operated, data center electricity consumption is clearly much lower than what was expected, and that's really the big story," said Mr. Koomey. 

More efficient hardware is also partly responsible for lower numbers, although according to the New York Times, Mr. Koomey wasn't able to separate the impact of the recession from that of energy-saving technologies.