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Will Governments Force the Data Center Industry to Become More Energy Efficient with Green Data Center Laws?

Posted on March 2, 2021 by Neche Veyssal

For the past year, the European Union (EU) has threatened to enact green data center laws including a goal of requiring data centers in Europe to be climate neutral by 2030. But in hopes of preempting government regulations, a group of European data center operators have signed a pact to self-regulate themselves.

In late January, 25 European data center operators and 18 trade organizations signed the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, which outlines aggressive data center efficiency and renewable energy goals, including a commitment to become climate-neutral by 2030, according to a Data Center Knowledge article

While the effort to reduce the climate impact of data centers is in Europe, it has the potential of a ripple effect in the United States. For example, numerous companies that signed the pact in Europe are multinational, U.S.-based businesses, including Amazon Web Services, Google, Equinix, Digital Realty/Interxion, and CyrusOne. 

Michael Winterson, the UK managing director of Equinix, told Data Center Dynamics that the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact could serve as a best practice agreement that can be copied elsewhere – like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy law. 

The GDPR not only required U.S.-based companies to comply with the law if they collected data on European residents, but the EU law also inspired California to create its own stringent privacy law called the California Consumer Privacy Act.

“This could be applied globally,” he said of the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact. 

For example, the pact calls for data centers to set ambitious water conservation goals using metrics such as Water Usage Effectiveness. “If a water usage effectiveness advance happens here in Europe, you would expect large providers to implement that around the world,” Winterson said in the story. 

The EU has not stated whether the pact will halt their plans for data center green laws, but one EU leader told Data Center Dynamics that he approved of the data center industry’s effort to self-regulate itself. The pledge “from important parts of the data industry constitutes a promise to society and offers a welcome first step towards achieving our common ambitions for a smart and sustainable future,” said Frans Timmermans, European Commission Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal. 

The pact focuses on six areas: energy efficiency; clean energy; water efficiency; “circular economy,” meaning IT and electrical equipment that reach the end of life should be refurbished and reused; “circular energy,” the potential for district heating systems to reuse waste heat from data centers; and governance, in which the companies report their progress to the EU.  

The pact requires data center operators to use 75% renewable energy by 2025 and 100% by 2030. It also requires data centers built in cooler climates beginning in 2025 to have a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.3 or lower. New data centers in warmer climates must reach a 1.4 PUE, Data Center Knowledge said. 

Not every large data center operator signed the pact, however. Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook did not sign the agreement. 

In the United States, lawmakers recently enacted the Energy Act of 2020, which requires the federal government to do a new study on the amount of energy and water data centers use. It also requires that federal agencies analyze and improve the energy efficiency of their data centers. 

The Energy Act, which was signed into law in December, also calls for the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to work with key industry stakeholders, including data center operators, to assess ways to increase energy efficiency. 

Contact us to learn more about solutions to make your data center more energy efficient.