Greater transparency, collaboration needed to improve data center sustainability, finds Greenpeace

by Brianna Crandall — March 15, 2017 — Greater transparency in energy-sustainable practice among data center industry players will help improve collaboration to tackle rising carbon emissions seen in the industry, according to a new report. In environmental advocacy group Greenpeace’s 2017 green information technology (IT) report, Clicking Clean: Who is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet?, many hyperscalers scored highly in the report for its adoption and initiatives on renewable energy, but other players in the industry were urged to improve advocacy and transparency, and to work more collaboratively.

Roel Castelein, customer services director, The Green Grid, stated:

The Greenpeace report is a good indicator that while there are definite movements towards a more sustainable data center industry, many organizations have sought individual goals, rather than working together to share best practice and find the best ways to a sustainable future. Google, Facebook and Apple are constantly pushing the barriers of green innovation, while also working closely with energy suppliers to help achieve sustainable company targets. Their ability to advocate such measures is beginning to influence the rest of the sector, yet more must be done.

Netflix is one such hyperscaler that, whilst having one of the largest data footprints out of all the companies profiled, it has been urged to increase the adoption of renewable energy and advocate for more use of renewables across the data center industry. As the video streaming market continues to grow and produce unprecedented amounts of data, the need for Netflix or an equally large provider to set the standard and advocate green policies can set a precedent for others to follow.

The latest Greenpeace report analyzed the big tech and data center companies on their use of renewable energy, advocacy and transparency on energy sources and planning. Google, Facebook, Apple, and colocation provider Switch received an “A” grade ranking for their ability to meet all these criteria and be powered through 100-percent renewable energy.

Since 2012, the amount of electricity consumed by the IT sector has increased by six percent (totaling 21 percent) in the past five years, making the need for a green data center industry stronger than ever before, according to the report. With an anticipated threefold increase in global Internet traffic by 2020, the advocacy of renewable energy for data centers will be important in sustaining its growth.

Castelein concluded:

The growth in the amount of data demands that all data center providers come together, rather than working in silos, and be clear in their use of renewable energy in creating a more sustainable industry. Whether it’s meeting government sustainability objectives, using renewable energy as secondary sources, or pushing for stronger connections with energy suppliers, it can all contribute to enhanced efforts in tackling carbon emissions.

The need for data center providers and end users to collaborate to ensure our use of data is sustainable has never been greater. Organizations like The Green Grid are providing the space for this to happen and are developing a range of tools to make sure that our growing dependency on technology is sustainable.

The 102-page Clicking Clean: Who is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet? report is available to view on the Greenpeace Web site.