Lionel Legros, General Manager of Asia Pacific OVHcloud, suggests that the Asia Pacific region can emulate Europe’s Climate Neutral Datacenter pact to catch up with sustainability obligations.

With burgeoning connectivity and data exchange in the current digitally transforming world, data centers, in particular, have been playing a more pivotal role in supporting the data surge.

As a result, the industry has among the highest carbon footprints in the business world. In Singapore alone, data centers accounted for approximately 7% of the country’s total electricity consumption in 2020. With demand for data centers expected to remain high, leaders must come together to address the industry’ impact on the environment and ensure that such energy draining premises are sustainable for the future.

Already, some countries in the Asia Pacific region (APAC) are starting to take charge in driving a greener and more sustainable future. These initiatives work to help improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption of data centers as well as to position the region to achieve its long-term net-zero emissions goal and strengthen commitments under the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Paris Agreement.

However, to fully tackle these sustainability goals, the cloud industry must play its part and work hand-in-hand with governments and the wider ecosystem.

Data center operators must therefore lead by example, enabling players from other industries that rely on their services and competitors’ services to follow, as well as take reference from green initiatives in other regions. This will ensure a faster green transformation.

Europe’s sustainability commitment

In Europe, players in the cloud industry demonstrate a model example by joining forces to reach climate neutrality by signing a Climate Neutral Datacenter Pact, developed jointly by Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers and the European Data Center Association.

This first-of-a-kind pact is the industry’s contribution to the ‘European Green Deal’—a set of green policies initiated by the European Commission that aims to make Europe the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050.

The voluntary engagements of the Climate Neutral Datacenter Pact serve five objectives:

  1. Power efficiency (using less power to deliver the same data compute and storage)
  2. Carbon free power
  3. Water efficiency (using less water for cooling of the same workloads)
  4. Recycling
  5. Reuse of heat produced by data centers

Some 30 cloud infrastructure services providers operating in Europe have since agreed to reach Climate Neutrality for the cloud infrastructure industry by 2030.

Subsequently, the European Digital Strategy, published in February 2020, confirmed that this goal was adequate for the data center industry, hence deeming the pact successful.

Will it work for APAC?

The Climate Neutral Datacenter pact makes the initiative a perfect base that could be extended into more geographies like APAC or countries ramping up on green initiatives.

To ensure that such general interests policy goals are met properly, there must be strong cooperation between industry and policymakers. It is especially important to define clear and measurable goals and milestones that align with the country’s sustainability policies to ensure rapid progress for the industry.

It is also important to make policies accessible to local small- and medium-sized enterprises, without burdening them too much. With energy efficiency, a widely adopted metric such as PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) which measures how efficiently a data center uses energy, could be used.

Alternatively, a new set of metrics can be defined to drive efficiency even further—which may lead to operators having to adapt the design of data centers and retrofit existing ones afterwards.

By harnessing innovative design and technologies such as liquid cooling, operations can reduce energy over-consumption, and even ensure the reuse, repair, or recycle of all server equipment.

Referencing the European model, which is designed to be inclusive (thereby enabling many other trade associations and industry players across Europe to join the pact), the engagements of such an approach in Asia Pacific could be designed to be accessible by all players: from the largest to the smallest, and to ensure the greatest impact.

It is important to cover the data center industry at large, including, for example, delivery models like colocation.

In Europe, the pact has to led to some industry collaboration initiatives being launched. This includes industry working with technology research institutes to monitor sustainability targets with plans to offer the same for customers in the near future.