Six Principles to Power Cleaner Data Centers

July 21, 2016
  • Katie Abbott

    Former Manager, Inclusive Economy, BSR

  • Kelly Gallo portrait

    Kelly Gallo

    Director, Technology Sectors, BSR

Many internet-based and data-centric businesses, from technology to finance to healthcare, depend on colocation data center services (colos) to meet their data storage needs. While efficiencies continue to improve, these facilities are highly energy intensive and represent almost 2 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption.

But companies that rely on these colo services now have a means to express their support for a cleaner cloud powered by renewable energy. Given the growing interest among both colo clients and service providers to use low-carbon energy sources and meet sustainability goals, BSR’s Future of Internet Power collaborative initiative has created a set of Corporate Colocation and Cloud Buyers’ Principles. Yesterday, Patrick Flynn, director of sustainability for Salesforce, introduced the principles at the DatacenterDynamics Webscale Conference in San Jose, California.

The Corporate Colocation and Cloud Buyers’ Principles outline six criteria that companies using colo services would like to see their providers meet, such as providing data on customer energy consumption, disclosing facility energy sources, and supporting renewable energy advocacy efforts. By applying the principles and giving preference to colo providers that meet the criteria, companies will not only be better positioned to the meet their own sustainability goals—they will also help accelerate the demand for renewable energy. 

These principles demonstrate momentum toward our vision of an internet powered by 100 percent renewable energy, and we encourage companies that use colocation data center services to support this effort toward a cleaner cloud by becoming signatories.

The Corporate Colocation and Cloud Buyers’ Principles 

As customers of colocation and cloud services, we agree that the following principles, if followed by colocation and cloud services providers, will help us to meet our sustainability goals. We will give preference to providers who do the following:

  1. Options: Provide options for cost-competitive services powered by renewable resources that reduce emissions beyond business as usual.
  2. Data: Deliver monthly data on the colo customer’s direct and indirect energy consumption, water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and other environmental data.
  3. Incentives: Align the partnership between customer and service provider so both parties have an incentive to reduce energy consumption..
  4. Collaboration: Provide options for colo customer collaboration on efficiency and renewable energy enhancements.
  5. Disclosure: Disclose individual sites and total global corporate footprint, as well as site-specific energy sources.
  6. Advocacy: Engage in policy advocacy efforts that support the use of renewable energy.

The principles address key challenges discussed at the 2016 Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) Summit, held earlier this spring at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. REBA is a coalition of influential nonprofit partners supporting the corporate renewable energy market, including BSR’s Future of Internet Power, Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center (BRC), and the World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute’s Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles. REBA’s goal is to help corporations purchase 60 gigawatts of additional renewable energy in the United States by 2025. Altogether, more than 60 companies are members of REBA’s various renewable energy initiatives.

BSR’s Future of Internet Power will continue to expand our work to increase the use of renewable energy powering data centers. In the past year, we have released a working paper on best practices for colo customers and providers to maximize renewables and helped increase the number of information and communications technology companies publicly committing to a 100 percent renewables goal.

This month kicks off the Future of Internet Power’s fourth year of work. In the next 12 months, our efforts will focus on industry advocacy initiatives and developing key resources for colo providers and customers to increase the use of renewable energy. A key part of this work is to encourage colo customers—ranging from large tech companies to small and mid-sized businesses from various industries—to join us in supporting the Corporate Colocation and Cloud Buyers’ Principles by becoming signatories to this initiative.

We look forward to acknowledging and engaging with companies that sign on to this effort, as well as recognizing the colo service providers that meet all six criteria.

If your company is interested in supporting Future of Internet Power and the principles, please contact Kelly Gallo.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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