Free clean energy credits for data centre users

To encourage companies to be more responsible in energy consumption, Digital Realty Trust will buy renewable energy certificates for its clients at its data centres around the world.

data centre lights
Data centres are becoming one of the largest and fastest consumers of electricity, according to US environmental action group Natural Resources Defense Council, which reported that the industry consumed over 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013. Image: Shutterstock

Data centre solutions provider Digital Realty Trust launched a clean energy credit scheme last month in a bid to encourage more firms to become more mindful of the energy consumption at their data centres.

Through the ‘Clean Start’ programme, the United States-based firm is offering companies which sign up to lease its data centres and use its services starting 21 January this year free renewable energy certificates (RECs), commensurate with the electricity used in the first year of their lease. Data centres are data-storage facilities for businesses and organisations which rely on storing information for their operations.

Aaron Binkley, director of sustainability at Digital Realty, said the programme aims to change the way the data centre industry addresses its carbon footprint through advocating renewable energy. “Our goal is to give clients an effortless path to procure clean, renewable energy for their data centres, and to take a leadership role in reducing the environmental footprint for the data centre industry,” noted Binkley.

Digital Realty said it will buy the RECs for one year, at no additional cost to clients. RECs is a green energy programme in the US; it lets companies reduce their carbon footprint and support renewable energy by buying clean energy credits from utilities which generate electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, or biomass.

Firms which sign up to lease data centres with Digital Realty are automatically enrolled in the programme for the first year and can choose to pay the next year if they want to continue clean energy credits, or opt out. RECs will be sourced near data centre sites wherever it is feasible, explained the IT firm.

Data centres - four out of the five largest in the world are in the United States - are becoming one of the largest and fastest consumers of electricity, the US environmental action group Natural Resources Defense Council reported last year. They consumed over 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013 and is on track to use 140 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020, the report said.

Their energy consumption in 2013 is equivalent to the annual output of 34 large, 500-megawatt carbon-emitting coal-fired power plants, sufficient to power all the households of New York City twice over, noted the report. It also meant the data centres contributed nearly 100 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. 

“We’ve eliminated the obstacles for our clients to make smarter decisions about energy consumption in the data centre, which we expect will result in greater adoption of more sustainable practices,” added Binkley.

The IT firm has 124 data centres across the US, 17 in Europe and four in Asia Pacific, in Hong Kong, Singapore, Melbourne and Sydney.

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