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Defining ISO 50001: The meaning and results for data center energy management

December 1, 2015

In 2007, the United National Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) called for an international energy management policy to guide businesses, governments and other institutions in proactively confronting climate change. This call recognized the impact of rising energy costs on the global economy, the environmental impact of fossil fuel consumption, and the need to protect earth’s ecosystem from the effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The ISO 50001 standard published four years later borrowed from the most effective national energy standards then in place and represented the active collaboration of fifty-eight nations, forty-four of these were members of the International Standards Organization (ISO).


Tackling this challenge, the organization outlined the objectives of ISO 50001 to:

  • Give organizations the requirements for energy management systems (EnMS).
  • Provide benefits for organizations large and small, in both public and private sectors, in manufacturing and services, in all regions of the world.
  • Establish a framework for industrial plants; commercial, institutional, and governmental facilities; and entire organizations to manage energy.
  • Target broad applicability across national economic sectors, it is estimated that the standard could influence up to 60% of the world’s energy use.


In creating 50001 as an international energy management standard, ISO would differ these standards from other conservation and sustainability initiatives in several important ways. ISO 50001 would:

  • Not focus on just one sector of the world economy
  • Not address just one kind of energy use
  • Not champion nebulous goals, but presents a concrete, repeatable methodology for achieving measurable results


With their Objectives and Approach established, ISO adopted the PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT Cycle as the “concrete, repeatable methodology” to achieve their goals.

The PCAD Cycle when applied to ISO Energy Management is defined as:

  • Plan: conduct the energy review and establish the baseline, energy performance indicators (EnPIs), objectives, targets and action plans necessary to deliver results in accordance with opportunities to improve energy performance and the organization’s energy policy.
  • Do: implement the energy management action plans.
  • Check: monitor and measure processes and the key characteristics of its operations that determine energy performance against the energy policy and objectives and report the results.
  • Act: take actions to continually improve energy performance and the EnMS.

Results of ISO Energy Management

The Wikipedia article on ISO 50001 catalogues these results achieved by standard adopters:

In China, Delta Electronics, a provider of power and thermal management solutions, reported reducing power consumption by 10.51 million kWh year over year.
In India, the Dahanu Thermal Power Station in Maharashtra expected to accrue annual savings of about INR 96.4 million ($1.7m) from raised energy efficiency and management.
In Austria, the Municipality of Bad Eisenkappel expected its consumption of energy to decrease by nearly 25% with the main savings achieved by updating the waste water plant and reducing energy consumption by 86 000 kWh, equivalent to €16,000 ($20.7k).
In the United Kingdom, Sheffield Hallam University reduced its carbon emissions by 11%, yielding annual savings of over £100,000 ($160.7k).

Digital Realty, sustainability and ISO 50001

Traditionally, people think of data centers as profligate consumers of energy resources. But in order to manage our business cost efficiently and to be a good citizen of the planet, Digital Realty has long been committed to sound energy management and sustainability across our portfolio of properties. The company not only complies with voluntary and mandated standards, it innovates by modelling energy solutions for both governments and industries around the world.

In November, our EMEA team announced that 12 more Digital Realty data centers in their region have been awarded the ISO 50001 certification for Energy Management. Compliance to this demanding standard is required in the United Kingdom and respected throughout the world.

Learn more about our data center certification programs on our compliance page.