Cleaner, Greener Data Centers | BCS


In the continuity of my BCS NOW article published in the spring 2021 edition, A new European roadmap for cleaner and greener datacenters, where I mentioned the EU Green Agreement, standards and an overview of a possible concept of a more nested smart city / data center; there has been a significant movement in terms of IPCC AR 6 Physical Science Baseline Report, published in August, on Climate neutral data center pact, the EU publication ‘Fit for 55‘proposals, and the impending COP26 which leads to the obligation to provide an update to the original article.

IPCC AR6 Physical Sciences Report

This report, associated with some alarming weather events, such as forest fires in Greece and the western United States, floods in London and Germany, high temperatures in Sicily (48 ° C +) and the publication of Updated flood maps, clearly indicate that the planet is heating up. Even today (late August 21), the fact that rain was reported falling on the Greenland ice sheet – which in 70 years of reporting has NEVER happened before – is undoubtedly a TELEPHONE WAKE-UP to humanity.

We need (to mitigate the worst predictions) reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which means we need to take 10 key steps:

  1. Eliminate coal-fired power plants.
  2. Invest in clean energy and efficiency.
  3. Renovate buildings.
  4. Decarbonize cement, steel and plastics.
  5. Switch to electric vehicles.
  6. Increase public transport.
  7. Decarbonize aviation and maritime transport.
  8. Stop deforestation and restore degraded lands.
  9. Reduce food loss and waste.
  10. Eat more plants and less meat.

The uncomfortable truth about data centers

However, in terms of data centers, I fear this alarm clock may fall on deaf ears. The predicted and actual growth of data centers through 2025 is truly alarming. Almost every day there is a new announcement of a 50MW, 100MW or more power-hungry data center planned in every region of the planet and all using 20th century design criteria.

We need to pause and radically rethink, look at some of the innovations that already exist but are not adopted, such as submerged computing, energy flexibility, waste heat reuse, consider the power and cooling side – and build , design and operate truly sustainable data centers.

Some operators are already aware of the climate emergency and have made some improvements. Many now cite the use of renewables for their operations, but these are done through virtual power purchase agreements, where renewable energy elsewhere is put into the grid on their behalf while still using local networks – so a form of ‘compensation’, some use energy efficient equipment, which is commendable, but there is much more to be done.

One mechanism that could elicit some recognition that we are in a climate emergency is the …

Climate neutral data center pact

Following the EU’s announcement in February 2020 that ‘data centers / telecoms can and should be carbon neutral by 2030’, and that regulations could be in sight, it was clear that the business sector (i.e. cloud and colocation providers) were extremely concerned about the nature of what these regulations might be and (in what some might say was a desperate attempt to avoid regulation), put the Climate Neutral Data Center Pact (CNDCP) in place in January 2021. It was to be a “self-regulatory” initiative with reports sent to the European Commission (EC) on a regular basis.

The pact is made up of five pillars: energy efficiency (based on PUE objectives), clean energy, water (based on WUE / WUE), circular economy (reuse, recycling of ICT equipment) and the circular energy system (in fact, the reuse of waste heat).

At the time of writing, 22 EU trade associations and 57 data center operators were listed as signatories to the pact. Formal (and informal) meetings took place between the EC, the Pact and other interested parties, including a meeting of independent consultants for a workshop to discuss various proposals presented by three independent consultants to the EC.

The workshop ‘

On June 21, a workshop (held virtually), triggered by consultants working for the EC, proposed a number of policy options that the EC should consider for the energy efficiency and sustainability of data centers, including :

  1. Changes to EU Code of Conduct for Data Centers (Energy Efficiency) (which I covered in the original article) to introduce “quantitative energy efficiency targets, a tier system label indicating the rate of adoption of best practices, implementation of monitoring by third parties for participants and the development of tools to increase participation, consisting of an online reporting tool, contacting smaller data centers and a communication strategy.
  2. Make green public procurement (an existing set of best practices based on the EU code of conduct for data centers (energy efficiency) as well as some best practices in sustainable development, obligatory for public authorities.
  3. Update of eco-design regulations on servers.
  4. Sustainable Finance Taxonomy (SFT), linking the issuance of green bonds to specific data center energy efficiency measures, which would be mandatory for financial institutions and large corporations (voluntary for other organizations).
  5. Self-Regulation Initiative, which would be inspired by the Climate Neutral Data Center Pact, but perhaps with labeling and certification.
  6. European Data Center Registry, which would record location, services provided, energy consumption, share of renewable energy, GHG emissions and circular economy practices.

Every proposal was put to the vote and the order was very interesting, (1) strengthening of EUCOC, (2) EU data center register, (3) eco-design (4) the GPP, (5) the SFT and finally (6) the Regulatory Self-Initiative. I was under the impression that the EC had lost patience with the industry and that regulation was practically assured.

Fit for 55

In August, the EC released a series of proposals that included various statements on data centers, the first of which was a recast of the Energy Efficiency Directive:

“Another important sector … is the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, which is responsible for 5-9% of total electricity consumption in the world and more than 2% of all electricity. shows. In 2018, the energy consumption of data centers in the Union was 76.8 TWh. This should amount to 98.5 TWh by 2030, an increase of 28%. This increase in absolute terms can also be seen in relative terms: within the EU, data centers represented 2.7% of electricity demand in 2018 and will reach 3.21% by 2030, if development continues on the current path. Europe’s digital agenda has already highlighted the need for highly energy-efficient and sustainable data centers and transparency measures for telecom operators on their environmental footprint. ‘

The directive goes on to explain how Member States should collect and publish data on energy performance and water footprint, in order to assess sustainability. There is also a desire to measure four fundamental dimensions of sustainability, namely energy (from renewable sources); reuse of waste heat in freshwater; improvement of equipment, software and services; better sustainability in the design of new data centers; transparent, evidence-based planning and decision-making.

“To promote sustainable development in the ICT sector, in particular in data centers, Member States should collect and publish relevant data for the energy performance and water footprint of data centers. Member States should only collect and publish data on data centers with a large footprint, for which appropriate design or efficiency interventions, for new or existing installations respectively, can lead to a considerable reduction in energy and water consumption or the reuse of waste heat in installations and networks. heat nearby. A sustainability of data centers indicator can be established on the basis of this collected data ‘

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