Schneider Electric publishes data-center sustainability framework

French IT giant Schneider Electric has published a five-part framework intended to serve as a guide to minimize the environmental impact of data center operations.

Schneider is billing the frame as an industry first, but the company specializes in power systems management, so it’s not all complacency. The framework is designed to help operators make their sites more environmentally friendly, regardless of how far along they are in their sustainability efforts.

Data center power consumption is on almost everyone’s radar to varying degrees. Researchers have estimated that data centers around the world account for between 1% and 2% of all energy use. For hyperscalers like Google and Facebook, as well as businesses, saving energy is a benefit both for the bottom line and for being good corporate stewards.

Many companies now report sustainability as part of their annual financial disclosures. They are communicating their commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs. However, many are new to the concept and not sure what to report, which is where Schneider’s frameworks come in.

Despite pressure from investors, regulators, shareholders, customers and employees, many data center operators lack experience in sustainability and face the daunting task of determining which metrics to track and strategies to implement, says Schneider.

The framework asks data center operators to focus on five measurable areas:

  • Energy: in addition to reducing consumption through efficient operations, the use of renewable energy helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions represented in electricity consumption. Schneider encourages reporting energy consumption, energy efficiency, and renewable energy use regularly to track progress.
  • Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions: CO2 and other gases such as CH4, PFCs, and HFCs are classified as greenhouse gases. Reporting GHG emissions is important for data center operators to show the efforts they are making to control climate change.
  • Water – Water consumption is becoming a growing problem as water cooling gains acceptance. However, cooling technologies use evaporation to reject heat, which consumes significant amounts of water. Uptime Institute research showed that a 1MW data center with traditional cooling methods uses about 25 million liters of water per year. Schneider recommends using reclaimed or recycled water instead of fresh water (potable water).
  • Waste – Data centers generate significant waste during construction and operations. Minimizing supply chain waste generation and diverting waste from landfills through reuse and recycling is a key strategy to become more environmentally sustainable.
  • Land and Biodiversity – Data centers have a relatively small footprint compared to standard corporate offices. However, for data centers with dedicated solar / wind farms, the impact on land and biodiversity can be significant for individual organizations. Data center operators need to start looking at the impact they have on land and biodiversity.

The Schneider Electric framework was developed by its Energy Management Research Center drawing on the expertise of ESG experts, sustainability consultants, data center scientists, and data center solution architects to take the guesswork out of measurements and reporting. The Sustainability Metrics Guide for Data Centers is now available for download.

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