At DCF we’ve noted how the leading data center and cloud computing companies are stepping up their sustainability efforts. Leadership matters, but there’s not always a clear roadmap on how smaller companies can adapt the innovation strategies of hyperscale operators.
If the world is to address climate change, that sustainability gap must be addressed, and not just by large companies. Pankaj Sharma of Schneider Electric says the need for a broad-based response has been heightened by two trends – the shrinking window for climate action, and the acceleration of the global shift to a digital economy.
“If you look at the IPCC (United Nations’ climate report), we have basically just the next decade for drastic action,” said Sharma. “The other big challenge is that there’s a whole heap of digitalization happening. In the next 20 years, the need for data centers will double.
“How do we make sure that this is sustainable?” asked Sharma, the Executive Vice President of the Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric. “There’s a lot of talk, but when it comes down to measuring impact, that’s a very difficult question.”
Schneider Electric hopes to spark a collective response from the data center industry. The global energy services company recently released a sustainability framework to help data center users identify, measure and manage their carbon impact.
Sustainability has many components, including facility design, energy efficiency, use of power and water, sourcing renewable energy, waste management and recycling, an many more. That makes it hard to develop climate responses that address the full scope of an organization’s environmental impact.
“Environmental sustainability reporting is a growing focus for many data center operators,” said Sharma. “Yet, the industry lacks a standardized approach for implementing, measuring, and reporting on environmental impact. Our intention with this framework is to improve benchmarking and progress toward environmental sustainability to protect natural resources for future generations.”
Adoption of Metrics Lags in Key Categories
Schneider’s framework reflects the growing recognition that the cloud computing sector must step up its efforts on climate change to help safeguard the future of the planet.
Schneider offers standardized metrics to guide operators and the industry at large. creating a flexible roadmap that organizations can use to assess their status. The framework, the Guide to Environmental Sustainability Metrics for Data Centers, identifies categories of climate impact, and metrics in each area that can be used in target setting, reporting, and certifying environmental impact.
“We need a common understanding that looks at the entire energy footprint, including PUE, greenhouse gases, water waste, and land and biodiversity,” said Sharma. “This is based on our experience. We have to start somewhere for a common for common ground. It’s really about the stage that you pick.”
The framework outlines which metrics each company can adopt and track, based on their current capabilities and future goals.
Schneider Electric’s framework was developed by its Energy Management Research Center, which sought input from ESG experts, sustainability consultants, data center scientists, and solution architects, with a goal of “taking the guesswork out of measurement and reporting” – a key step in equipping operators to instrument and document their IT operations.
“You can’t have an impact on what you don’t measure,” said Rob Brothers, Program Vice President for the Datacenter and Support Services Program at IDC. “Companies must establish clear and consistent metrics that account for not only efficient technology, but also the consumption (or possible destruction) of natural resources such as water, land and biodiversity.”
For years, the data center industry’s primary “green” metric has been power usage effectiveness, or PUE, which was developed in 2007 by industry consortium The Green Grid to provide a benchmark for energy efficiency. Over the years, it has become broadly embraced, with about 70 percent of data center operators tracking PUE, according to recent data from The Uptime Institute. Growing concern about water scarcity has prompted action, with about 51% percent of data centers now tracking their water usage.
About Schneider Electric
Schneider’s purpose is to empower all to make the most of our energy and resources, bridging progress and sustainability for all. We call this Life Is On.
Our mission is to be your digital partner for Sustainability and Efficiency.
We drive digital transformation by integrating world-leading process and energy technologies, end-point to cloud connecting products, controls, software and services, across the entire lifecycle, enabling integrated company management, for homes, buildings, data centers, infrastructure and industries.
We are the most local of global companies. We are advocates of open standards and partnership ecosystems that are passionate about our shared Meaningful Purpose, Inclusive and Empowered values.