Only Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Transformation will make that journey to carbon free possible. Some thoughts and a Framework.
As we write, the Corona Virus, Covid-19, has the whole world in its grip, and at a societal and economic lockdown. This may require updating in 60 or 90 days. Let’s hope sooner. But, no matter, as of this moment, this is the crisis and threat that rivets our attention and deep concern.
On the other side of this pandemic, it is very likely that nothing will ever be quite the same again in the world, and it will be up to all of us — each in our own ways and our own fields of interest and expertise to shape the new world that we enter. It is not so much a matter of Will we recover from?, but rather, What will we innovate to…
However, the window is rapidly closing on our capability to “flatten the curve” (thank you, Covid-19, for giving us that term) on holding the planet’s warming to 1.5°C. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The IPCC is the holder of the COP21 Paris Agreement and its legacy — here is the organization’s Summary for Policy Makers 2019. Well worth the read. And Sobering. The IPCC calls for Carbon Neutrality by 2030 and Carbon Zero by 2050. (Yes, there is a definitional difference, we believe, and we parse this here but further in.) The EU is committed to this. Notably, the US is not. Nor are the world’s other major GHG contributors.
OK, so why does this matter to the world of data centers and the digital infrastructure industry ecosystem?
Our position in this is clear:
We don’t get to shape and build the sustainable future we want for our children and grandchildren without Digital Transformation (DX).
DX is a — if not “the” — path to a sustainable world. It far surpasses anything we can do in conservation, in cutting back, in slowing down (all of which have their relative importance and still need to be pursued). This is the decade when the scale and velocity of DX will become overwhelmingly apparent in every economic sector. Covid-19 has shown us a glimpse of what’s coming.
The demand is for the same DX to happen within each “pillar” of the Digital Infrastructure platform that enables Industry 4.0 to ensure that it not only meets the world’s mission-critical requirements: 24x7x65 always-on uptime Availability, Reliability, Resiliency, Performance and Security. Equally (we think) important now is Sustainability.
Why? Because the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) economic value created by the Digital Transformation of Industries (World Economic Forum) comes with a reduction in carbon — the “decarbonization” of the economy in a world where data increasingly has greater value than the material, structures, products and services that the data “surround.” Without trying here to say why Tesla and Amazon are extraordinary success stories for Digital Transformation, and each points the way in the industry sectors it touches. You will undoubtedly have your own examples.
The 3-pillar Digital Infrastructure Framework of DX
These are the three primary pillars of Digital Infrastructure upon which Digital Transformation stands. Each of them is either undergoing its own state transition or is a critical component of DX and the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure industry we serve, along with large component or systems subsets of technologies — all of which (and more than we can list at this moment. critical to DX and all of which are undergoing their own DX.
Wherever it’s easily possible for most of these topical areas, we’ve picked just one of many possible sources to help tell the larger story.
Energy>Power. Utilities, Renewable (and low-carbon) generation, Utility-scale grid energy storage, Grid power transmission and distribution, On-site / local clean power gen, Microgrids and Blockchain, Clean Energy and Carbon Markets
Telecommunications>Network, Fiber optic cable, 5G mobile/wireless, Internett, SDN / NFV, Cloud, Fog, Mist, Interconnection/meet me room, Open Network Exchange, Subsea fiber optic cable, Telco central office as edge data center
Journey Towards Zero Carbon
In order for the Digital Infrastructure to help hold the global heat-up to not greater than 1.5°C (above the pre-industrial era levels) by 2050, here’s what most believe both the public and private sector leadership need to take on in terms of its carbon footprint:
- Carbon Positive — the organizational is contributing greater carbon / GHG emissions than it is offsetting with clean energy — if it is offsetting at all.
- Carbon Neutral by 2030 — in less than a decade, whatever the embodied and operational carbon (GHG) is emitted (including the life-cycle of the equipment and building), the organization offsets it with renewable energy or through other means.
- Carbon Zero by 2050 — (also called “net zero”) the organization, across all of its facilities and operations, produces no carbon.
- Carbon Negative — the organization, as a whole, is producing more carbon-free energy than it consumes, and is distributing that clean energy back to the grid.
- Climate Positive — the organization, overall, has both an operational carbon and an embodied carbon net positive impact on climate change.
Questions to consider
Do you know where you and your company are on the Carbon Zero / 1.5°C Journey? Is it a stated priority within your organization?
Do your IT, Data Center and Cloud organizations take this seriously at the senior-most levels?
Is there a direct linkage between Corporate Sustainability executives and the IT / Data Center Executives?
Do you know what your company’s carbon draw-down commitment, plan and roadmap are?
Do you know what your specific role and responsibility is to the Digital Transformation and the companion carbon drawdown is of your enterprise?
Do you personally think enough is now being done fast enough by your organization?
Are you, personally, actively engaged in sustainability efforts within your organization?
If you are a supplier to the digital infrastructure industry, do you understand the role each of your products and services play in:
- Digital Transformation and Digital Infrastructure Transformation?
- Both operational and embodied carbon reduction?
- Reducing embodied carbon?
- Reducing operational carbon?
Do you believe that the Digital Infrastructure industry needs to have a Forum for CEOs to take a pledge to reduce carbon emissions and achieve Carbon Neutral by 2030?
If so, should this same Forum body actively encourage other industries to adopt the digital infrastructure that enables DX / Industry 4.0?
Our intention, as Digital Infra Network, is to focus our full attention and commitment to providing you with the information and having you join with us in the conversation of how we all help each other, in knowledge sharing and collaboration, to advance toward Sustainable Digital Transformation as quickly as possible, so that Carbon Zero is a planned reality in our 2050 future.