A framework for sustainability for data centres

Schneider Electric - The issue of sustainability has become increasingly urgent as accelerating climate change threatens human societies and the planet with a potentially irreversible threat. Abnormally hot and cold temperatures have resulted in millions of deaths globally, and the latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now warns (pdf) that we might exceed two degrees Celsius increase in temperature by 2100.

A recent report by 451 Research concluded that the majority (57 percent) of data centre providers view sustainability as a competitive differentiator in three years, up from the current reading of 26 percent. This is a significant increase and underscores the importance of sustainability in the eyes of customers.

Unfortunately, just 43 percent say they currently have strategic initiatives and efficiency improvements in place. Indeed, just 56 percent of the more than 800 operators surveyed say they monitor their operational systems, while the remainder says they do not generate reports to track metrics such as energy consumption, utilisation, and PUE. 

There is no plan B when it comes to sustainability, notes Kevin Brown of Schneider Electric. At a presentation at DCD, he presented various steps that colocation providers can adopt in the Asia Pacific. Below are four of the steps.

Establish an action strategy 

Everything begins with a strategy, especially one with clear objectives and prioritised actions. This might entail ensuring that internal expertise and resources are aligned in terms of design, procurement, facility operations, and sustainability. Make a business case to justify and fund projects to reduce carbon output. Ultimately, it would probably be necessary to seek the necessary executive sponsorship and leadership to peg a price on the cost of carbon, and to place a cap on CO2 emission. 

Improve operational efficiency

Implementing efficient designs in data centres can reduce energy loss by as much as 80 percent. Don’t overlook designs that offer reduced size and weight, as well as better serviceability. This not only translates to fewer raw materials used but lowers transportation emissions. And because you can’t manage what you don’t measure, be sure to start implementing resource dashboards to track carbon footprint, too.

Buy renewable energy

Unless the data centre is plugged directly into a renewable energy source, the only way to go green is to purchase renewable energy. Indeed, renewable energy can be difficult or impossible to generate directly in cities such as Singapore. Thankfully, the use of Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs) is a well-established mechanism to offset carbon footprint. Power Purchase Agreements or PPAs are the most common mechanism to acquire EACs for the long haul.

Decarbonise supply chain

Finally, data centre operations should seek to decarbonise their supply chain. While this can certainly be complex, it is certainly true that the entire supply chain forms part of one’s carbon footprint. But by judicious selection of suppliers, it is possible to minimise the impact of the supply chain. Of course, vendors must be transparent about the sustainability impact of their products for this to work.

Where is your organisation on its climate journey? Schneider Electric has a demonstrated track record of helping companies on all stages of their journey. You can read check out the full presentation here.

Article by Michael Kurniawan, Vice President - Singapore, Malaysia & Brunei, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric

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