In the corporate push to develop and launch Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives, data centers are among those feeling the pressure to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint. This pressure is being propelled by multiple forces, including more aggressive government regulations at federal, state, and city levels. Particularly noteworthy are the new, stricter, nationwide requirements imposed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on January 1, 2023. These establish minimum efficiency performance standards and new test procedures for HVAC systems, which are critical to data center operations.
Data center stakeholders are also feeling mounting public pressure to reduce their carbon footprint, including from their own customers. In the recent “Get Out in Front” global research report and survey from Deloitte, 65% of respondents said they expect business leaders to take greater action to reduce carbon emissions and tackle air pollution, while 58% said they want entire organizations to change their sustainability practices. Major data center operators are taking note. Microsoft and Google have announced their commitment to net zero emissions by 2030, while Amazon Web Services plans to power its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025.
Embracing ESG is about more than meeting government mandates or public demand. For data center owners and operators, improved energy efficiency translates into substantial savings and better operational performance that benefit the bottom line. Consider that:
- between 2021 and 2022, the U.S. saw a 34.6% increase in energy prices
- the world’s data centers consume upwards of 250 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity
- data centers represent 1% of global electricity demand and 0.3% of global carbon emissions
- IT and data center managers say their largest data centers have an average annual power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio of 1.55
Reducing this energy usage will have a tremendous impact on reducing operational costs as well.
Integrated Data Leads to Increased Energy Efficiencies
Increasing data center energy efficiency requires having greater real-time visibility into which systems are consuming – and wasting – the most energy. Data centers generate and collect massive amounts of data from building management systems that can illuminate those key opportunities for energy savings.
However, the deluge of data from numerous systems operating independently of one another can cloud visibility, making it hard to monitor and manage energy usage. It’s not uncommon for data center operators to log into 10 different building systems with even more touchpoints to collect and view operational data. Aggregating this data is time-consuming, and making sense of it can be next to impossible.
The solution to this data conundrum requires breaking down the data silos. To accomplish this, data center stakeholders are tasked with integrating disparate building systems, including HVAC, lighting controls, building access controls, security, fire and life safety systems, network infrastructure, and more. This integration, both within a single facility and across multiple locations, helps create a unified data pool. Once organized, the data become easier to access and leverage as actionable intelligence, enabling operators to better find and address hidden inefficiencies.
Real-time visibility is certainly critical to improving energy efficiencies, but so is the ability to easily access and view historical data. With analytics that reveal energy consumption over time, data center operators can:
- compare current and past performance of building systems and multiple buildings within a geographic area
- better evaluate energy usage
- uncover savings opportunities
- assess the effectiveness of energy-efficient improvements they’ve implemented.
Indeed, according to ENERGY STAR DataTrends research, building owners and managers who monitor benchmarking data consistently reduce building energy usage by an average of 2.4% per year.
Creating the Road Map to Reduced Energy Consumption
Fixing the data silos won’t happen overnight. It requires having the resources and expertise to implement a road map for the long-term deployment and proper utilization of energy data. In developing that road map, data center stakeholders can consider the following steps.
- Partner with an energy management expert who understands the complexities and technologies unique to data centers, and how best to integrate disparate data from various building systems.
- Create a customized energy management plan specific to each data center’s size, age, use, location, existing systems, and current energy consumption.
- Employ an incremental approach <span”>to implementing energy efficiency improvements, starting with upgrades that can be made to existing systems to minimize disruption, downtime, and costs.
- Work with solutions-neutral vendors and service providers who recommend unbiased products and technologies based on the best fit.
- Stay ahead of ever-evolving government regulations around energy efficiency and decarbonization, as well as available incentives that can offset the costs of energy-efficient improvements.
- Develop a long-term ESG strategy that prepares for the eventual reality of decarbonization and ensure that key stakeholders and leadership are on board.
In the right hands, presented the right way, building system data delivers significant economic benefits as well as increased energy efficiencies. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, tapping into data can translate into $9.5 to $15.4 trillion in additional economic value for the world’s smart buildings.
Clearly, the financial upside of unified, actionable data is huge. With a roadmap in place, embracing energy efficiency in data centers can become a competitive advantage and the right thing to do – for operational performance and the planet.
Vice President and General Manager of Data Center Solutions
Nabil Taha calls on his deep engineering and leadership experience as the Vice President and General Manager of Data Center Solutions at Albireo Energy. He manages the Data Center division’s overall financial performance and operations with seven offices across three continents. In his role, he ensures customers can access complete, integrated data center offerings that include building management solutions, programmable logic controls, electrical monitoring systems, and analytics.
Throughout his career, Nabil has worked globally on over 100 data center projects representing over eight gigawatts of IT load. His extensive technical skills extend to network management fault-tolerant systems, database design, and solar power. Proficient at communicating and navigating complex technologies, Nabil draws on his experience with digital control systems, supply chain management, and market projection.