Data centers—the large facilities housing networked computer server systems that keep the internet running—accounted for nearly two percent of all energy use in the United States in 2014. With more and more business being conducted in the cloud, and with the internet playing an ever-more-prominent role in societies around the world, energy demands for these centers are only expected to grow.  

Increasing the use of renewable energy to power data centers can therefore have a strong positive impact on corporate, regional, and national sustainability efforts. That’s why some of the world’s most influential internet companies—including Adobe, eBay, Facebook, HPE, Salesforce, and Symantec—are working through BSR’s Future of Internet Power initiative toward a bold vision: an internet powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Following completion of the initiative's fourth year of work, we’re taking a moment to look at what we have achieved recently and to highlight our ongoing efforts.

Corporate Colocation and Cloud Buyers’ Principles

Last July we successfully developed and launched the Corporate Colocation and Cloud Buyers’ Principles. Through these Principles, customers of data center colocation and cloud services set out six criteria that they expect their data center service providers to meet to help achieve sustainability goals. What’s more, signatories to the Principles intend to give preference to providers engaging in these Principles, which include delivering monthly data on energy consumption and engaging in advocacy efforts around renewable energy.

Thanks to a strong collaborative effort, 21 companies, including several data center service providers, have signed the Principles. This sends a strong collective message for the future of the industry that data center sustainability is good business. As signatories, such as Bank of America, Etsy, and Intuit, are making clear, addressing the carbon footprint of their data is not just important to the technology sector: Any company that has an online presence or relies on data center and cloud services can benefit—and can play a role in creating a more sustainable internet—by signing the Principles.

To build on this success, Future of Internet Power will be developing a toolkit to accompany the Principles. This toolkit will offer a practical, step-by-step guide for putting the Principles into practice, using examples and case studies to show how partnerships between a data center or cloud user and service provider can ensure that both parties have incentives and resources to reduce energy consumption and increase renewable energy use.  

White Paper: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Accounting, Renewable Energy Purchases, and Zero-Carbon Reporting

More recently, we have worked closely with the World Resources Institute (WRI) to produce a white paper addressing the issue of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions accounting, renewable energy procurement, and reporting in the data center sector. Research for this paper highlights the issue of double-counting scope emissions and subsequent zero-carbon claims, specifically when both data center service providers and their customers classify the same GHG emissions related to the data center as their own scope 2 emissions. Given the current accounting and reporting standards of WRI's GHG Protocol, this double-counting becomes problematic when both the data center provider and the customer want to make a zero-carbon claim related to a renewable energy purchase and scope 2 emissions at a particular facility. We will continue to work with WRI and other industry stakeholders to establish clear GHG accounting and zero-carbon reporting guidance for all parties.

Renewable Energy Buyers’ Alliance

Lastly, to strengthen our public advocacy for renewable energy more generally, we will continue to work closely with our co-founders of the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Alliance (REBA): Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center, the World Wildlife Fund, and WRI. Through this partnership, we can work with a network of larger companies to help scale renewable energy and reach REBA’s collective goal to help corporations purchase 60GW of additional renewable energy in the US by 2025. Earlier this year, REBA was awarded the Corporate Eco Forum’s C.K. Prahalad Award for demonstrating how collaboration is critical to widespread adoption of renewable energy.

On September 17-19, we will co-host the 2017 REBA Summit, which will gather 400 energy buyers, service providers, developers, financiers, nonprofit organizations, and utilities in Santa Clara, California, ahead of GreenBiz’s VERGE17 conference and expo, to identify opportunities to accelerate corporate procurement of renewable energy. We look forward to continuing the conversation with our Future of Internet Power members and the greater REBA network at the summit.

Submit registration requests for the 2017 REBA Summit on the GreenBiz website.