The Role of the Customer in Data Center Decarbonization
The data center industry has a large electricity appetite, accounting for at least 1% of electricity use worldwide1. Demand for data center services is rising with the expansion of data-intensive technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and smart energy systems. Given the current and growing impact of the sector, finding and implementing sustainable energy solutions in data centers will be crucial to reduce their carbon footprint.
Enter the data center customer.
Nearly every company uses data, and many purchase space in colocation data center facilities or contract with public cloud service providers. This buying power affords customers substantial leverage to make asks of their data center providers that accelerate the decarbonization of the data center industry. In addition, pushing for renewable energy solutions in their data services contracts can help companies advance their own emissions goals, often more easily than by addressing emissions sources that are deeper in their supply chains.
Data center customers can ask some probing questions to help accelerate renewable energy procurement and initiate conversations with their service providers:
- What are my company’s emission reduction goals, and how can working with my data service providers help advance those goals? Do I have a Scope 2 goal? A Scope 3 goal? Understanding your company’s goals will help guide your conversations with your data service providers.
- Are my data service providers measuring their electricity usage? If so, how is this usage measured? Do I have access to electricity data that is relevant to my data usage?
- Do my data service providers offer renewable energy solutions? What are these solutions?
- Can I make renewable energy claims based on the renewable energy my data service provider procures?
By asking these foundational questions, companies can advance their own energy and sustainability goals while also accelerating the decarbonization of the data center industry. Requesting renewable options and pushing for customer-provider collaboration is crucial to inform data center providers that there is customer demand for more sustainable energy solutions, and to ensure the feasibility and mutual benefits of these solutions.
CEBA’s Future of Internet Power (FoIP) program brings together data center customers and providers to create collaborative solutions to renewable energy procurement in data centers. Most recently, CEBA members participating in FoIP made key updates to the Corporate Colocation & Cloud Buyers’ Principles and Toolkit to reflect the increasing presence of outsourced cloud service providers in the market, and to support corporates in taking more aggressive action on climate and renewables. The Principles outline six criteria that companies using colocation or cloud services would like to see their service providers meet, and the Toolkit provides tactical guidance on how data center customers and providers can put the Principles into practice.
CEBA members are encouraged to join the FoIP initiative to get more involved with the effort to power the internet with 100% renewable energy. All data service customers, regardless of CEBA membership, are encouraged to use and sign the Corporate Colocation and Cloud Buyers’ Principles listed on the FoIP webpage. If you have any questions about FoIP, renewable energy in data centers, or other ways to get involved, please contact email@example.com.
1 Energy Innovation (March 2020). How Much Energy Do Data Centers Really Use?