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Digital Realty: Data Centre Renewables Are Up, But The Work’s Not Done

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

Rob Coupland, Digital Realty’s MD of EMEA, explains the growing impact of renewables in the data centre industry

The idea of ‘going green’ in the data centre industry and putting more emphasis on renewable energy sources appears to have been on the rise in recent times, with all the big players keen to advertise their environment-saving efforts. 

But according to Rob Coupland, Digital Realty’s MD of EMEA, while there is definitely interest in the area, it has actually been around for a long time. 

Speaking to Silicon, he confirmed that the use of renewables does come up in conversations with customers, but it’s “not a new thing,” with the conversation often manifesting itself as “an economic discussion around how much cost is going to pass through in terms of the amount of energy that’s being used”. 

google

Going green

One of the changes in recent years has been the combined efforts of both governments and the industry to work together to improve energy usage and efficiency which, so far, is working: “As an industry, over probably the last seven or eight years there has been a great combined effort to self-regulate and there’s been lots of work around thinking about how sites are designed to make them more efficient. If you look at the efficiency of sites they’ve doubled now compared to what they were five years ago, so there’s been a dramatic change there. 

“The work that was done in the UK to get the climate change agreement in place, to make sure there was a recognised way for the industry to self-regulate and work with government to make sure that we had clear targets to aim for there has been very good,” said Coupland. 

While it might not be on the agenda for all organisations, Coupland argued that “doing the right thing is relatively easy,” as “it’s one of those rare situations where doing the right thing for the planet, doing the right thing for your customer and doing the right thing for your CFO are actually all kind of lined up”.

This is especially true in an age where enterprises are taking corporate social responsibility more seriously than ever. For example, Google recently purchased 236MW of wind energy from Sweden and Norway as part of its push to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy

And the search giant isn’t alone in upping its efforts. Earlier this year Microsoft publicly raised its data centre renewable energy targets after Apple announced that 93 percent of its facilities are now running on renewables. 

So progress is definitely being made but, as Coupland made clear, “there is always more to do. For everybody, whether that’s the end customer or us as a provider, thinking about efficiency, thinking about where that power comes from and thinking about how we drive as much improvement there as we can is always front of mind.”

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