APC Schneider Electric is set to open a 'Power University' next year to educate a new generation of engineers about the demands of working in data centres, and to tackle the increasingly high levels of power they consume.

Aaron Davis, chief marketing officer of APC Schneider Electric, said that the problem that the data centre industry was facing was that the skilled staff working in existing data centres were on average 10 years older than other IT staff and were coming up to retirement.

APC Schneider had tried to address the shortfall by launching Data Center University two years ago. This offered certified training to anyone who wanted to enhance his or her skills in working in a data centre.

Davis said that the university currently had 30,000 students, but that globally, 100,000 people needed to be trained. He said that part of the problem was that plenty of people knew that there were aspects of current data centres that needed fixing, but weren't sure exactly what action to take.

"There has been plenty of attention focused on the aviation industry," said Davis. "but data centres globally are responsible for as much carbon emission as planes. So, if we could reduce consumption by a third, that's the equivalent of taking out one plane in three."

Davis said that the Power University should take the concept even further and should help companies cope with the twin constraints of growing power needs and rising costs. "We're going to look at everything about energy from plant to plug."

He said the need to tackle power consumption was pressing. "For every three units of electricity that are generated, only one makes it to the plug. And many of those losses are behaviour-driven."

Davis pointed out that PCs and peripherals between them use up about as much energy as data centres so that energy efficiencies could be considerable.

The Power University, scheduled to start in the first half of next year, will be module-based. Davis said that cost structure hadn't been decided but that it would be broadly similar to the Data Center University where the first two courses were free and subsequent modules cost $50 (£33) each.

Davis said that the education on energy issues is vital, not just for the industry but for the planet. "It's the biggest business opportunity in the history of the planet," he said. "But if we don't reduce CO2, the effects could be disastrous."

He believed however that the election of Barack Obama could have positive effects on the industry. "In 1978, we looked at exploring alternative energy sources but subsidies were cancelled as soon as the new president took over in 1980. In fact, APC (which Schneider took over in 2006) was set up originally as a company to explore solar energy, that business vanished almost overnight." This time around, however, Davis thinks that things will be different. "I'm quite optimistic that we're not going to step back," he said.

More controversially he was worried about the effects of cheaper oil. He added that his only concern was that the current fall in oil prices could continue. "If energy costs continue to fall, it would remove some of the sense of urgency," he said.