Improved efficiency and renewable energy support the drive to decarbonise the Internet

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Improved efficiency and renewable energy support the drive to decarbonise the Internet

At the heart of the internet is the data centres where the data behind the myriad information services we rely upon every day is processed, stored, and communicated. As the number of global internet users has grown, so too has demand for data center services, giving rise to concerns about growing data center energy use. Between 2010 and 2018, global IP traffic—the quantity of data traversing the internet—increased more than ten-fold, while global data center storage capacity increased by a factor of 25 in parallel. Over the same time period, the number of compute instances running on the world’s servers—a measure of total applications hosted—increased more than six-fold.

Rising energy demand

“Every action we take on the internet—uploading a photo, streaming a video, or even just clicking a link, requires data storage and processing from a physical data center,” Lily Proom associate at Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), explains. “At least one per cent of the world’s electricity is data centre’s daily operations to power, cool, and backup server equipment. This demand will continue to rise. As organizations set Scope 3 emissions targets, a significant portion the supply chain emissions may be colocation data center facilities (colos) and public cloud service providers. There is a massive opportunity for data centres, cloud service providers, and their customers to reduce the internet’s carbon footprint through increased efficiency and renewable energy procurement commitments.” 

Breaking down barriers to sustainability

Enter REBA’s Future of Internet Power (FoIP) initiative, a key coalition of companies identifying barriers and developing solutions for energy management and renewable energy procurement by colocation data center facilities (colos) and public cloud service providers. FoIP’s membership is comprised of key REBA members representing the largest internet and data center companies in the world who recognize the need for efficiency and renewable energy procurement and demand action by their colo and cloud providers. 

“FoIP aims to power the internet with 100 per cent renewable energy by building a community of stakeholders who focus on collaborative innovation and education to solve the toughest challenges in the industry,” Proom continues.  
The FoIP initiative is guided by a set of principles to help data center customers engage their providers to procure renewable energy. Several resources exist to support FoIP participants as they address key barriers to renewable energy procurement in data centres, such as scope accounting and the pass-through of renewable energy benefits from provider to customer. Future work through the FoIP initiative will focus on building out new tools to address outstanding market challenges, and addressing emissions associated with public cloud services. 

Advancing sustainable energy expertise

“Recently, REBA launched a program within the FoIP initiative, the LESsor Sustainable Energy Network (LESSEN), a training program for data center providers and commercial real estate landlords that will equip these key stakeholders with knowledge, resources, and a community to help them advance their sustainable energy efforts. 

“As companies use more data, their carbon footprints will grow. FoIP brings together colo and cloud customers, service providers, and industry stakeholders to address challenges to energy consumption and access to renewable energy through innovative solutions across the data sector,” Proom concludes. “Joining FoIP is a cost- and effort-effective way to drive industry impact, meet supply chain sustainability goals, and engage with a community of companies that share challenges and objectives. REBA members engaged in FoIP can drive the direction and strategy of this work, determining which market barriers are addressed and guiding the development of resources that are targeted at these challenges.”

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