The present and future of sustainability in Europe’s data centre market
Will the data centre market unite to combat climate change?
Ed Ansett, Chairman and Founder at i3 Solutions Group sat down with Joao Marques Lima, founding editor at The Tech Capital and JSA TV contributor, to discuss how the global data centre market is adapting to new sustainability agendas.
Much European data centre market activity involves finding and adopting renewable energy sources for primary power, and while the FLAP markets are at the forefront of this movement it is gradually making its way into Eastern Europe.
This is happening in a buoyant market with large-scale developments in Tier 1 markets typically over 50 megawatts per facility in the major European cities.
Beyond Tier 1 in emerging markets such as Romania, there is a hyperscale campus of 200 megawatts and 500 megawatts under development in Portugal.
Q: JML: What is your take on sustainability in Europe? What is being done on the continents that you think is good and what is being done that is not good?
A: Ed Ansett: “I think Europe has been on a sustainability path for quite some time. It started with the European Code of Conduct over a decade ago, and now there are new voluntary initiatives emerging across EMEA.
The market is complex from a sustainability perspective because we have a variety of fuel mixes which have a big impact on the approach to sustainability. Some countries are fortunate to have access to low carbon emission power sources, particularly countries that are big on hydro. But there are other countries which still use quite a lot of coal and therefore have greater challenges.”
With much of this being Government-led, data centre operators and owners must adhere to the government policies but they are going about it in different ways with varying degrees of success.
Q: JML: What more needs to be done to achieve all those goals of being 100% green by 2030?
And do you think 2030 is an achievable target to be green?
A: Ed Ansett: It is almost impossible for any data centre to be 100% green and the realistic achievement is to reduce carbon emissions to the minimum level. There is no such thing as a zero-carbon data centre and there never will be because the minute you extract any mineral from the ground you are always carbon positive from that second onwards. So, it’s really about the question of minimising carbon.
Organisations are deploying offsets to subtract from their carbon footprint. There is some controversy around this, but it’s definitely a good idea in general terms. However, it should not be seen as a get-out-of-jail card.
The way I look at it is that it can be a little bit like paying your big brother to do your homework for you. But it’s a stop-gap measure, something which can be achieved whilst you go about actively reducing your own carbon footprint.
Q: JML: What’s your view on initiatives that have come into the market such as the Carbon Neutral Data Centre Pact?
A: Ed Ansett: “These are great initiatives, but I fear we need consensus. To be able to make an informed decision from a carbon perspective, a tenant or end-user needs an agreement among data centre operators where everybody shows their status so a buyer can take a comparative point of view of which data centre operator is doing what.”
Q: JML: That would be a complete game-changer. What is i3 Solutions Group doing around sustainability?
A: Ed Ansett: i3 Solutions Group is a data centre specialist consulting engineering group.
About two years ago we realised no other independent data centre consulting engineering firm, was publishing information around what sustainable technologies are suitable for data centres.
There are sustainable technologies which are applicable today, so we are trying to rationalise these technologies in the context of their application to the data centre sector. In order to inform the conversation, we put together a research team from i3 in the EMEA and APAC regions alongside our US partners EYPMCF.
We’ve called it the ‘Green House Gas Abatement Group’ or ‘GHG Abatement Group’ for short.
The team analyses different subjects and technologies in the context of the data centre market to make suggestions regarding which of them are applicable and what their impact would be on sustainable factors in short and medium timeframes.
The purpose is to provide an independent, vendor-neutral perspective. As consultants we don’t sell products, we give clients unbiased advice. And with this free to access content we provide the same to the reader to help inform their decisions.
Q: JML: Describe what the market will look like at the end of 2022.
A: Ed Ansett: Greenwashing must be avoided. Sustainability must be approached from all angles with practical solutions that are beneficial for all involved participants. Long term carbon initiatives are required to make data centres as sustainable as possible. How this will be accomplished is through mutual understanding and communication across the data centre industry and into the wider market.
Data centres are commercial enterprises that make money for corporations. That mission cannot be compromised by making the wrong choices to reduce their carbon footprint.
Watch the full video interview here.