If you ask senior business leaders whether they’d prefer to use clean energy to power their data centers, most would say, “Yes.” They may even be prepared to pay a premium because they understand that consumers and other stakeholders are becoming more aware of the environmental impact that data centers have as they support our increasingly digital economy.
Yet only about 13 percent of the electricity generated in the United States in 2013 came from renewable sources — solar, wind, biomass, moving water, and geothermal power plants. Globally, the figure was somewhat higher, at 21 percent, as of 2011. The rest of the energy consumed in the U.S. comes from the traditional fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and oil, as well as nuclear power.
What’s the hold up? As one of the world’s largest providers of data center solutions, Digital Realty has been asking its clients just that. We’ve found that despite their interest in making their data center operations more sustainable, businesses often find it challenging to dedicate the personnel and the financial resources to work towards more sustainable energy solutions.
One key obstacle might be the lack of a clearly defined clean energy policy and objective. Other obstacles might be assumptions about the perceived cost of clean energy, limited staff expertise available to develop an effective procurement strategy, and concerns about the potential changes an organization might need to make to its business systems.
Despite these obstacles, some of the world’s leading technology companies, such Amazon Web Services, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, are moving towards 100 percent renewable energy use in their data centers.
We understand the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses when they seek to move to clean energy. The good news is we can make the transition easier than many people might think.
To help clients discover just how easy it is to transition to clean energy, I’m delighted to say that Digital Realty recently introduced the Clean Start℠ Program. Under this program, Digital Realty clients worldwide who sign qualifying leases can access clean energy for one year at no extra cost.
We’re able to introduce this immediately and without disrupting services by using Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) or their equivalents. Each REC represents 1 megawatt hour of power generated from renewable sources. Digital Realty will buy enough RECs to offset the energy usage for the initial 12-month period of a qualifying lease for each customer in the Clean Start℠ Program. We will also help customers work through any questions that arise, such as how they can measure and report on their clean energy usage.
At the end of the initial 12-month period, customers can decide to either purchase their own RECs or to revert to their traditional power usage model.
We’re very excited about the Clean Start Program, which is an important part of our wider focus on sustainability. With the Clean Start Program, it really is feasible to transition to clean energy.
Digital Realty seeks to partner with its clients to lead the global data center industry in sustainable environmental performance. We are committed to ongoing efforts that benefit the environment and enhance the growth of our clients’ businesses.
Aaron Binkley, director of sustainability