Iron Mountain’s Kevin Hagen explains how asking the right questions of your data center vendor can turn a potential for sustainability responsibility into an opportunity.
This is a fact that we know only too well. Data centers consume a lot of energy and the demand is only increasing. According to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), data center power consumption is expected to reach 140 billion kilowatt-hours per year by 2020, roughly the annual output of 50 power plants.
In a world rightly concerned with climate change and environmental responsibility, growing energy needs can be a handicap. As more and more customers demand efforts for a sustainable future, ignoring the environmental impact comes with risk. This is especially true in the data center industry.
If we cannot demonstrate a commitment to reducing our impact, there is an existential threat to our industry that is posed by the environmental consequences of our energy consumption. The threat to our industry is a social license to operate, and inaction could have direct business consequences.
The good news is the story doesn’t end there. As decision-makers, we can make economic and financially viable choices that help us make ourselves part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
All we need to do is become smarter in the way we define and specify our energy use, so that we can use our purchasing power as part of the solution. We can change our decision making, promote environmental responsibility and drive a greener network for everyone.
The biggest players in the industry have already led the way. Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon took risks and invested in green energy early on. By working to green their own operations, they have created new market opportunities for corporate renewable energy purchases that allow the rest of us to follow that same path.
In just a few concrete steps, you can use your energy purchasing power as part of the solution.
First of all: understand your business commitments
The first step is to look inside and understand the goals and mandates of your own organization. Does your company have a commitment to sustainable development? If so, what are your metrics?
Contact your sustainability and corporate responsibility team for information. Your company may be one of the thousands of companies that publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, more than 600 companies are committed to setting up science-based carbon reduction targets and more than 200 companies have committed to being 100% renewable energies through the RE100 program.
If your business doesn’t have public commitments, there might be someone working on those efforts. Ask them how you can help them as a data center decision maker.
Whether your company’s sustainability goals are public, ongoing, or just the blink of an eye, there are three key questions that will help you make the right choices when it comes to energy procurement. This can help save money, reduce risk, and differentiate data center vendors who are likely to do it right.
Question n ° 1: Do you publicly declare your carbon footprint and your energy consumption?
Does your data center vendor report on their carbon footprint and energy consumption? Transparency is the cornerstone of trust and is a key indicator of a reliable business partner. If they know their carbon footprint and disclose their environmental impacts, they are probably doing a lot of things. Putting real data in the public domain is a key differentiator between good green talk and real accountability.
Question 2: Are you using renewable energies to power your data centers?
Next, ask your data center provider where their energy comes from and whether they are choosing to source high-quality renewable energy.
For many organizations, data centers create a large portion of their carbon footprint. Using green energy to offset your energy consumption will go a long way in achieving sustainability goals.
In the past, many customers were reluctant to ask for green power because they thought it was expensive. But it was then, it is now.
Today, renewables are not only often cheaper than brown electricity, savvy buyers are negotiating long-term fixed-price or stable-price energy contracts. This means that in the future, the energy costs of companies that use renewables are likely to be more stable and offer more reliable prices than fossil fuels. Price volatility is an enemy, especially when it accounts for a large portion of the cost of doing business in a data center.
Green energy isn’t just good for the planet, it makes good business sense.
Question # 3: Can we get credit for your green power?
Finally, if your data center provider Is use renewable energy, ask if you can get credit for their green energy use. Ask if they can provide documentation so your business can claim carbon reductions and green energy use in your reports.
While claiming this credit was difficult in the past, new protocols developed by Future of Internet Power (FoIP) offer a solution.
The The future of internet power (FoIP) is a consortium of key colocation customers, suppliers and other stakeholders, including Iron Mountain. Convened by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), the group worked together to create a solution that would allow retail and colocation data center customers of all sizes to report their green energy consumption and their carbon reductions. adapted to the rigorous expectations of news agencies such as CDP and WRI.
The FoIP Collaboration Group has released a “best practice” white paper or protocol for data center customers to highlight the benefits of green energy contracted by data center owners. This open source industry practice requires specific documentation deliverables so that you can claim the benefits in your public reports.
Transparency is the cornerstone of trust and is a key indicator of a reliable business partner. If they know their carbon footprint and disclose their environmental impacts, they are probably doing a lot of things.
The three elements included in the FoIP protocol are a contractual agreement, certified renewable energies with an audited chain of custody and a letter of attestation conveying the benefits.
Iron Mountain’s Green Power Pass is an example of a product that does just that. Green Power Pass is a renewable energy reporting solution based on the new carbon reporting protocol and based on our 100% renewable energy colocation offer.
Green Power Pass is a fully transparent, industry-approved solution for businesses looking to report greenhouse gas or CO2 reductions associated with the green energy they consume in Iron Mountain data centers. With the Green Power Pass and our transparent accounting process, we can now pass these renewable energy benefits to our customers.
Products like this open the door for thousands of businesses to gain access to renewable energy for their data center footprint. More customer access means more demand for green electricity – and that will lead to a greener grid for everyone.
By asking for green energy, you are part of the solution. You help data center vendors recognize demand and start finding market-based solutions. Together, we can help create market-based solutions to environmental challenges. We can put businesses to work for better results.
When we get smarter in how we define and specify our energy use, we can use our purchasing power as part of the solution. Then, with my apologies to Marvel Comics, you can use your power literally and figuratively for good.
Kevin Hagen is Vice-President Strategy, Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) at Iron mountain.