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European operators and cloud providers sign Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact

Written by Thu 21 Jan 2021

Green data centre

42 companies and associations commit to taking “specific steps to make data centres climate neutral by 2030”

Heavyweights from across the European data centre ecosystem today formalised a far-reaching sustainability agenda in a landmark moment for the much-scrutinised sector.

The ‘Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact’, signed by 42 of Europe’s key cloud providers, data centre operators and industry associations, aims to transform the energy-hungry infrastructure powering our digital society into a climate neutral economy.

By signing the agreement, key cloud providers and data centre operators, including AWS, Digital Realty, Google and Cyrus One, have committed to taking specific steps to make their data centres climate neutral by 2030.

Hyperscale operators Microsoft and Facebook were among notable absentees from the first wave of signatories.

The self-regulatory initiative was developed in co-operation with the European Commission and bolsters Europe’s existing green agreements with a more robust and measurable sustainability roadmap.

The EU’s European Green Deal aims to make Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, while the European Data Strategy aims to make EU data centres climate neutral by 2030. 

Signatories must all demonstrate energy efficiency and provide measurable targets, purchase only carbon-free energy, prioritise water conservation, reuse and repair servers and explore ways to recycle heat.

UK left-behind?

Progress towards achieving climate neutral data centres will be monitored by the European Commission twice a year.

Despite Britain’s Brexit withdrawal, the UK data centre industry is expected move in tandem with their European counterparts through techUK, a tech trade body that works closely with the European Data Centre Association (EUDCA).

It is understood signatories with a UK data centre presence also intend to improve those facilities in lockstep with the accord.

“Data centres are the supporting pillars of the fourth industrial revolution and, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, are essential infrastructure of not only the digital economy but of the entire global economy,”  said Apostolos Kakkos, Chairman of EUDCA.

“It is our duty to commit to a self-regulatory initiative that will help to ensure the operational availability, sustainability and the future of our industry.”

Key pledges

Operators have agreed to meet a high standard for energy efficiency, demonstrated through “aggressive” power use effectiveness (PUE) targets.  These include:

  • An annual PUE target of 1.3 when operating at full capacity for data centres launched after 2025 in cooler locations, and 1.4 for those in warmer climates.
  • Existing data centres will achieve these same targets, which apply to data centres larger than 50KW of maximum IT power demand,  by January 1, 2030.
  • Trade associations will create a new data centre efficiency metric and set a 2030 goal based on this metric once a definition is agreed.

Data centres have also promised to “match” electricity supply through the purchase of renewable energy or hourly carbon-free energy — 75% by the end of 2025 and 100% by the end of 2030.

All signatories will strive to conserve water wherever possible:

  • By 2022 operators will set an annual target for water usage effectiveness (WUE) or another metric, to be met by new data centres by 2025 and by existing ones by 2030.
  • The target may vary depending on the data centre design specification.

Operators must “set a high bar” for circular economy practices by:

  • Assessing for reuse, repair, or recycling 100% of used server equipment.
  • Increasing the number of server materials repaired or reused and creating a target percentage for repair and reuse by 2025.

Lastly, all have agreed to actively explore possibilities for reusing waste heat, including interconnecting with district heating systems and other users of heat to determine if they are practical and environmentally sound.

More to follow.

Written by Thu 21 Jan 2021


Europe sustainability
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