3 ways to create a
greener data center industry

The journey to a more sustainable world

Data centers account for 1.8% of all U.S. electricity consumption, roughly equivalent to the yearly electricity consumption of New Jersey, according to IOPscience.

That study was conducted in 2014, and energy use has only increased in the years since. Now, as sustainability rises to the top of many organizations' priority lists, the pressure is on for the data center industry to use more efficient systems and renewable energy, as well as embrace carbon cutting practices. And that’s only the start —there’s still more to be done to achieve sustainability goals.

"43% of data center operators have a strategic sustainability initiative in place."

Whether your data center is already on its sustainability journey or you’re just beginning, here are three steps you may not have considered that can help reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

1. A greener future for finance

Green bonds are fixed income instruments to finance sustainable projects. Since the first data center green loan was issued in 2015, they’ve grown in popularity within the industry. The bonds are designed to encourage sustainability projects and come with tax incentives to make them an even more attractive investment. Green credentials such as these are considered crucial as a public commitment to corporate responsibility increasingly becomes a badge of honor for owners of both existing and newer buildings.

Data centers require a massive amount of energy and resources, everything from the electricity to run the facility itself to the water required for liquid cooling, which means they take a toll on the environment and are costly to operate. But making the link between sustainable practices and the finances to support them accelerates the path to net zero.

2. Creative strategies to reduce energy

Demand for digital infrastructure is skyrocketing, but so are the costs for building and maintaining facilities that supply it. Data center leaders face the challenges of rising materials and labor costs due, in part, to pandemic-related trade slowdowns and shortages. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools that help.

Many facilities strive to use fewer construction materials, while also focusing on other sustainable ways to reduce energy costs. Data centers must adapt to the growing pressure to reduce carbon emissions, reduce water consumption and address waste across the industry. So, it’s crucial for leaders to understand two indicators that will help reach their goals:

Power usage effectiveness (PUE) – Using power effectively means understanding the ratio between the total amount of energy used within the facility and the energy delivered to a unit. This will help owners know the total amount of energy needed in order to prevent overheating systems. Also, PUE supports sustainable goals like climate action and production.

Water usage effectiveness (WUE) – Water is used to cool down data center power systems and using it effectively means understanding the ratio between the annual water usage and the IT equipment energy usage. Since different geographies can vary in water availability and vulnerability to droughts, it is vital for operators to understand their water usage effectiveness in order to identify methods to become efficient and assess alternative cooling mechanisms. WUE is calculated by dividing your annual water usage by the energy consumption of the IT equipment.

Data centers can use these KPIs as annual benchmarks to compare usage throughout their facilities and better prepare to reach sustainability goals.

3. Partnerships to reach net zero

Embracing and executing green initiatives can rarely be successful if done in a silo. Partnering with government leaders can boost sustainability efforts in areas including construction, energy-use, transportation and more.

Simply executing government policies can help you hit your sustainability targets. The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, a movement to reduce the footprint of data centers by 2030, and the European Green Deal, which uses technology to make Europe climate neutral by 2050, are two such efforts that can be adopted to accelerate your goals.

There has never been a better time for data centers to commit to their sustainability initiatives by embracing unique ways to decrease the industry’s carbon footprint.

*According to S&P survey