Data Center Efficiency is About Economics and the Environment

Last week was a great one for sustainability at IO. First, we joined 24 other leading companies as signatory to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, which frame the challenges and common needs faced by large renewable energy buyers. Then, I was privileged to talk at the 2015 GreenBiz Forum about how corporate sustainability is as much (or more) an economic imperative as an environmental one. And then, IO announced an innovative program to provide customers with data center capacity powered by 100% renewable energy.

A clear call for cost-effective access to renewable energy

Twenty-five corporate signatories – including IO – signed the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles to “spur progress on resolving the challenges” we face when buying renewable energy.

As businesses face greater dependence on information technology (a significant consumer of energy) and increased pressure for environmental stewardship, cost-effective access to renewable energy is increasingly essential. At IO we hope the Buyers’ Principles will help spur greater action to overcome the challenges that we, and many other leading companies, face as we work to procure clean energy to power our data center operations more efficiently.

As I explained in an interview with Datacenter Dynamics, one challenge energy buyers face is the lack of a unified voice. The Buyers’ Principles are designed to focus the conversation, and to amplify our request. That is critical in an industry characterized by fragmentation: each utility has different power portfolios, different regulations, and different demands. Furthermore, energy infrastructure is very expensive to build so utilities are often cautious about embarking on new projects.

The Buyers’ Principles represent a different way of engagement for both energy suppliers and buyers. It is critical that we work together collaboratively to find cost-effective ways to procure and deliver renewable energy to consumers.

IO is the first data center to sign the Buyers’ Principles

Over the past several years at IO we have become experts on data center efficiency. Sustainability has long been a key pillar of our strategy, and that is reflected in our physical infrastructure, big data analytics, and DCIM offerings. Now it’s time to draw that energy from renewable sources. (In fact, that’s a common path: energy efficiency first; renewable energy next.) First we focused on using less energy, now we focus on where it’s coming from. Both are important aspects of sustainability.

One of the points of the Buyers’ Principles is to share best practices. I am really looking forward to engaging with my colleagues at companies like the candy manufacturer that is a longtime leader in corporate sustainability, and the social media giant that has architected some of the most energy efficient data center environments on the planet.

Key theme at the GreenBiz Forum: renewable energy is an economic decision, and an environmental one

One of the key themes at the GreenBiz Forum last week was the economics of renewable energy. There was a palpable sense of optimism that we’ve come to the tipping point where renewable energy is cost competitive with traditional forms of energy. Past that tipping point, the economics only become more favorable. The cost competitiveness of renewable energy depends on the market, of course, but the general message is this: buying renewable energy no longer has to be an environmental decision alone; now, it can be an economic decision.

According to GTM Research, solar will account for more than 40 percent of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S. in 2015 – “a new record.”

Arizona is one place where the economics are right for renewable energy. IO’s just-announced agreement with Arizona Public Service (APS) opens up renewable energy options for us and our customers in Arizona. Anthony Wanger, President at IO explains: “By aggregating the energy use of our customers, IO applies scale efficiencies to data center operations and renewable energy procurement. Our goal is to provide our customers with the best available options for reliable, renewable, and affordable energy. This arrangement with APS represents a great option for our customers, which is not available at other data centers in the State.”

New Jersey is another place where the economics are likely right for renewable energy. There, the state government offers generous tax incentives. And our data center in Edison has nearly 800,000 square-feet of roof space ideal for a solar installation. But if we decide to install solar at our New Jersey data center, it will not only be an altruistic decision – because it’s good for the environment (which of course it is). It will also be because the economics make sense.

 

Founded in 2007, IO provides the data center as a service to businesses and governments around the world. Trusted by some of the most demanding consumers of data center services, IO provides a framework for business sustainability: greater availability, lower latency, increased security, and improved data center efficiency. Learn more.