Operators present new water metrics to European Commission

Water

The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact (CNDCP), a self-regulatory initiative signed by 74 data centre operators and 23 associations, has presented is proposed metrics for water conservation to the European Commission, with a proposed limit of 0.4 litres per kilowatt-hour of computer power (kWh).

Established in 2021 with the support of Vice President Timmermans, the Pact has formal progress meetings with members of DG CNECT and DG ENV every six months. The third of these meetings took place in June 2022.

The Pact’s focus on climate neutrality demands action on a range of related environmental fronts. In alignment with the Commission, five areas, including water conservation, have been identified for action and as the focus of the Pact’s work. As data centres increase in power and capacity the servers within them require cooling. Several technologies exist, but water-cooling is an efficient and increasingly common approach which uses less energy and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than electro-mechanical systems. But, with water stress high and increasing in many areas, it is vital that the data centre industry acts to mitigate its use of water.

The proposed limit takes into account the diverse range of technologies, climates and types of data centre building to ensure that the metric is technology and location neutral. Nevertheless, it will ensure that data centres operated by Pact Signatories will rate among the most efficient globally for their use of water. The accompanying white paper further stipulates additional metrics to take into account regional water stress levels and percentage of non-potable water used. It states that every data centre building should be treated as if it was in a high stress water area. Importantly, by differentiating between potable and non-potable water the Pact’s proposed measure will encourage use of grey-water and rainwater for cooling.

The new metric must be achieved by all data centre operator signatories to the Pact by 2040. This acknowledges the lifecycle of current cooling systems and the embedded carbon cost of early replacement. It does, however, effectively preclude the construction of any new data centres with water-towers which would be unable to meet the agreed metric.

The Pact also presented updates from its Monitoring and Reporting Working Group. This group is tasked with formalising how metrics are measured and to align reporting with existing approved frameworks. Plans were announced to map Pact metrics against ISO 30134 standard which covers a range of environmental measures for data centres. Independent auditing company Bureau Veritas has been engaged to undertake this work.

Following the meeting, the Pact has established two new Working Groups to define targets for recycling and reuse as part of a circular economy, and to establish metrics for energy efficiency. These have already commenced work and will report progress at the next update meeting with the Commission planned for November 2022.

Commenting on the meeting, Pact chairperson, Matt Pullen, said: “This was the third of our bi-annual update meetings with the commission and we feel we are really hitting our stride in providing relevant, auditable metrics that make significant contribution to accelerating our industry’s shift to climate neutrality. With over 90 per cent of Europe’s data centre capacity represented by signatories to the Pact these meetings are milestones on a crucial journey for Europe’s Green Deal and Digital Agenda.”

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