EU Green Week: Moving Toward Zero Pollution and Carbon Neutrality

Key initiatives and data center sustainability trends that will power a cleaner and healthier world

Maurice Mortell

This year’s EU Green Week 2021 is focusing on how the world can address the persistent threats that climate change and pollution pose across our planet today. The recent European Union (EU) Action Plan toward “Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil” is targeted at building a “Healthy Planet for All.” This is part of the European Green Deal calling for the EU to better monitor, report, prevent and remedy air, water, soil and consumer products pollution, among other things.

Clean energy for the digital world

We’ve set a long-term goal to use 100% clean and renewable energy across our global portfolio and data center platform.

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Two men walking through modern tech company lobby with large window and leafy plant.

The industry is progressing toward zero pollution and climate neutral data centers

The European Commission’s Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil action plan is aligned with the EU’s target for achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and is a key component of the European Green Deal goals across green, digital and economic leadership, while creating a healthier and fairer society.[i] In support of those goals, the EU Climate Neutral Data Centre (EU CNDC) Pact plays a leading role in helping Europe transition to a climate neutral economy.

The CNDCO Pact was born from industry collaboration with the European Commission to set goals and develop a self-regulatory initiative that will encompass most environmental impacts from the data center sector. We’re proud to be a signatory of the EU CNDC Pact and Self-Regulatory Initiative to demonstrate our commitment to sustainable and equitable growth. The Pact will allow us to take a leap forward in ensuring that our industry plays a leading role in climate action and helping Europe transition to a green economy.

The Cloud Infrastructure Service Providers of Europe (CISPE) and the European Data Centre Association (EUDCA) created a joint commission made up of 34 cloud and colocation operators (representing 80%+ of EU data centers) and 20 national and international trade associations. In its Self-Regulatory Framework for Data Centre Operators, the CISPE has identified five targets to hit by 2030: power usage effectiveness (PUE) reductions, water conservation, equipment recycling and reuse, and heat capture and reuse.

In addition, the EU is looking for logical places to invest as part of the Green Deal transition that include:

  • Smart European Grid ꟷ Delivers data that allows the EU to better and more cost-effectively manage its energy mix.
  • Hydrogen Market ꟷ Makes Europe the world leader in green hydrogen delivered via the gas grid.
  • Energy Storage ꟷ Creates a strong European energy storage market and invests in various technologies.
  • Fuel Cells ꟷ Increases the use of fuel cells, currently a very small scale industry that needs support.
  • Legislate Green Usage ꟷ Supports updated tax and other European legislation to differentiate green data center operators and penalizes inefficient technology use.
  • An Open PPA Market ꟷ Opens up the European Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) market, allowing willing investors to drive more additive renewable energy and companies to buy renewable energy for their operations.
  • Retro-fit Grants ꟷ Sets up a European grant/subsidized loan market to retro-fit older data centers with the latest energy efficiency innovations.
The European Commission’s Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil action plan is aligned with the EU’s target for achieving climate neutrality by 2050."

How Equinix is driving sustainability across our global platform

At Equinix, our Future First sustainability strategy rallies our people and partners to envision a better future and then do what it takes to make it happen. As the world’s digital infrastructure company, we have the responsibility to harness the power of technology to innovate and contribute to a more accessible, climate neutral and sustainable future. In the EU alone, we purchase 100% renewable energy for all sites,[ii] and across the world we are at over 90% renewable. We believe that it will take a concerted effort by numerous companies, governments and people to protect our planet and create a better future.

Here are some of our more recent efforts to meet global sustainability targets and goals:

  • Green Bonds: Through our Green Finance Framework, we have allocated approximately $3.7 billion across three green bond issuances. These bonds will increase our focus on protecting the environment and addressing global climate change through greenhouse gas emissions reductions, increasing resource efficiency and driving corporate transparency and accountability.[iii]
  • PACT Board Membership: As a board member of the EU CNDCO Pact, we are active in establishing the following working groups:
    • Policy vision group
    • 100% use of renewable energy
    • Setting PUE – Power usage effectiveness – targets
    • Conservation of water
    • Reuse and repair of electronic equipment
    • Recycling waste heat
100%

In the EU alone, we purchase 100% renewable energy for all sites, and across the world we are at over 90% renewable.

  • Aligning Digital and Environmental Best Practices: We are participating in on-going meetings with EU environmental leaders on best practices for aligning Europe’s zero carbon energy goals for the digital age. Data centers can play a key role in decarbonizing Europe’s energy system by enabling the development of new, renewable energy on the electric grid, while also supporting heat recovery and reusing energy where possible and practical. The industry is also looking at transitioning away from diesel generators and leveraging nascent green hydrogen energy and deploying liquid cooling systems. By using resources in the most efficient and sustainable way, we can support a shared digital and climate-neutral future.
  • Energy Efficiency Center of Excellence (EE CoE): In 2020, we launched EE CoE to foster continuous improvements, upgrades in infrastructure and maximization of the impact of key sustainable technologies and best practices across global Equinix data centers. EE CoE initiatives were rolled out to 12 pilot sites, with 28 more sites targeted in 2021. Engagement is a key component and the program includes distributing information packages to local teams and customers and leveraging an energy efficiency digital knowledgebase to facilitate information sharing. EE CoE also facilitated a cost-effective global procurement agreement for blanking panels and, in 2020 alone, we invested more than $5 million in implementing cold and hot air containment, which will yield significant improvement in energy efficiency and cost reductions. Future work will include feasibility studies to test new technology opportunities inside our data centers, as well as benchmarking water usage data and other efficiency measures.
  • Renewable Energy Roadmap: We are progress towards our 100% renewable energy goal. We aspire to make renewable energy the source of electricity for ourselves and our customers. This includes considering the geographic locations of our data centers in order to effectively buy renewable energy (e.g., wind, solar). It also involves collaborating with utility companies and power providers on new contracting mechanisms and opportunities to buy renewables. By working together with these key stakeholders in the energy industry and local communities, we are moving toward a future with a more holistic vision where urban planning, renewable energy and grid providers, and consumers of power are operating together.

Building a sustainable future for all

At Equinix, we are aligned with our customers and partners on a shared sustainability journey.

But we know that our work is not done. Watch for more announcements around our data center technology sustainability initiatives that will enable us and the world to move closer to zero pollution and 100% carbon neutrality.

Learn more by reading about our sustainability efforts.

You may also want to read:

IDC’s “Datacenters and Sustainability Goals.”

Equinix Interactive Sustainability Report (ISR) at http://sustainability.equinix.com

[i] EU.Europa – Zero Pollution Action Plan.

[ii] There is one exclusion in the EU and that is WA1 which is a landlord owned and controlled site.

[iii] May 4th Green Bond Press Release
Feb 25th Green Bond Press Release
Sept 24th FY20 Green Bond Press Release.

$5 Million

In 2020 alone, we invested more than $5 million in implementing cold and hot air containment, which will yield significant improvement in energy efficiency and cost reductions.

Maurice Mortell
Maurice Mortell Managing Director Ireland and EMEA Sustainability Lead