Adobe, eBay, Facebook, HP, Salesforce.com and Symantec have partnered with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) on an initiative to promote low-carbon power sourcing for data centers in the US.
The newly formed Future of Internet Power will also help Internet companies work more effectively with policymakers and utilities, BSR says.
Data centers represent 1 to 2 percent of total electricity use in the US, and contribute to a major part of internet companies’ carbon footprint, BSR says. Many data center operators are already investing in energy-efficient infrastructure and equipment to address this issue. But internet companies must also address the source of electricity, BSR says.
Renewables have a lower climate impact compared to coal-fired electricity. As data centers grow, however, operators are expanding into sites where the electricity grid has a higher carbon footprint, BSR says.
Some companies are taking action to power data centers with clean energy. Facebook’s data center siting policy states a preference for access to renewable energy. And Salesforce.com plans to encourage its data center energy providers to increase their supply of renewable energy.
BSR says even leading companies have encountered several challenges to sourcing low-carbon electricity. These include:
- Infrastructure requirements: A large percentage of a facility’s energy is usually generated off-site. This means data center operators need to work with utilities, or those that manage electricity transmission and distribution.
- Cost premiums: Carbon-intensive coal power costs less than renewable energy in much of the country.
- Operational complexity: For some companies, it’s more economically efficient to focus on their core business and outsource power plant management instead of owning an on-site energy source.
- Regulatory environment: Regulations usually don’t encourage partnerships that companies need to form to address these energy challenges.
Skyrocketing amounts of data create such constant demands that most executives feel some of their organizations’ data centers will run out of power, cooling or space by the end of 2014, according to a study published earlier this week by Siemens, UBM Tech and Information Week Marketing Services. However, because of budget issues, most respondents will not invest in new data centers, but are planning on upgrading existing facilities.