Digital Realty recognizes the importance of managing the life-cycle environmental impacts of its data center portfolio, from design and construction through its operational lifetime. We operate a comprehensive program that addresses siting and resilience, sets standards for sustainable building design and actively manages the ongoing efficiency and environmental impact from our operational data centers.
Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In 2019, we announced an agreement to source 50 MW of solar capacity for a portion of our Northern Virginia data center portfolio. The long-term virtual power purchase agreement (vPPA) is expected to generate 107,000 MWh of renewable solar power annually.
Our three operational vPPAs produced more than 605,000 MWh of wind and solar energy in 2019, sufficient to meet the electricity needs of more than 72,400 homes for one year1. Our renewable and carbon-free energy efforts resulted in an estimated 1,254,000 metric tons CO2 equivalent emissions (MtCO2e) avoided in 2019, sufficient to meet the annual electricity needs of more than 212,000 homes. In total, our renewable energy procurement includes:
- 100% renewable energy for all EMEA properties
- 100% wind power for US colocation business
- 324 MW new solar and wind under contract
- Carbon-free power supplied to five properties in California and Illinois
- Green tariff enrollment for Oregon and Arizona data centers
Since 2007, we have received certifications covering 652 MW of IT capacity (8.5 million square feet), more than any other data center provider. In total, 27% of our global portfolio by square foot has received one or more green building certifications.
In 2019, four shell completions received green building certifications and the office space within one of our Richardson, Texas data centers received green building certification. 2019 certifications totaled 1.1 million square feet.
As part of Digital Realty’s infrastructure upgrade program, the Operations team performed energy audits on 18% of our global managed portfolio by square feet and targeted projects at properties that would deliver significant efficiency and cost savings. Implemented and tracked projects resulted in an estimated 26,000 MWh and $3.1 million in energy efficiency savings, equivalent to the electricity needs of 3,100 homes for one year.
Our Operations and Design & Construction teams secured $1.2 million in utility incentives and rebates related to energy efficiency initiatives for more than 40 efficiency improvements implemented in 2019.
Energy Star Certifications
We certified 29 data center under the US EPA’s ENERGY STAR Certification for Data Centers, signifying that our data centers rank in the top 25% of similar facilities nationwide in terms of energy efficiency. These facilities total 509 MW of data center IT capacity, representing 70% of our US stabilized and operating portfolio by sellable IT capacity. Compared to industry- average data centers, these data centers save 1.7 million MWh annually, enough to power 142,000 average US homes and save 1.2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year. Our efforts with ENERGY STAR and achievements in energy efficiency and energy management were recognized in 2020, when we became the first data center partner to receive the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award.
In 2019, we added three sites that use non-potable water, and in total, 43% of our global water supply (more than 661,800 kGal) was provided by reclaimed or onsite recycled water.
To expand water conservation efforts, we announced in 2019 an agreement with Nalco Water, a global leader in water management technologies and expertise, to expand our efforts to optimize water use through reduction, reuse and recycle projects. This initiative will enhance our ability to design and operate cooling technologies designed to achieve the best balance between water consumption, energy consumption and environmental impacts. These efforts will help enhance water supply resiliency, improve visibility into water using systems via expanded submetering and monitoring, reduce water consumption through innovative treatment programs and extend asset life.
As part of this effort, the Operations and EOH&S teams developed a Global Water Strategy and Policy which addresses the strategic role that water plays in our operations, identifies regions where water quality and scarcity pose the greatest interruption risk to our business and creates a pipeline of projects and opportunities to advance Digital Realty’s position with respect to water resilience in our operations. In addition to assessing our global portfolio for water scarcity using the World Resource Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct™ tool, in 2019, 45 sites accounting for 84% of total 2019 water usage were assessed for water risk and water efficiency opportunities. This includes an assessment providing insights into the potential impact that water scarcity and quality can have on our business in the various regions and watersheds in which we operate globally, prioritizing areas of focus where water projects could reduce operational costs and build in greater operational resilience.
1 96% data coverage. Data excludes leased properties and properties where Digital Realty does not have operational control.
We benchmark our waste generation in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and joined the BOMA Waste and Water Challenge, committing to monitoring and improving waste and water efficiency. In 2019, our data centers generated 10,500 tons of waste and diverted 26% of total waste generation.
During construction of our data centers, we follow green building certification standards for minimizing waste and using regional and recycled materials. On average, for our data centers certified in 2019, 28% of building materials were locally sourced, 27% used recycled content and we diverted more than 88% of on-site generated construction waste.
1 77% data coverage for 2019 waste metrics. Data excludes leased properties and properties where Digital Realty does not have operational control. Waste generation is calculated predominantly via utility bills based on a third-party utility billing management system. Waste metrics do not include waste generated during construction. 2017 waste metrics are not shown in historical data charts due to low data coverage.
Digital Realty is the largest REIT issuer of green bonds. Green Bonds are standard bonds with green features, designed to support projects that have beneficial impacts on the environment compared to business as usual. In early 2019, Digital Realty issued its second green bond having aggregate gross proceeds of €1.08 billion, the data center industry’s first Euro-denominated green bond. This follows our inaugural green bond issuance in 2015, the first in the data center industry.
Proceeds from the 2019 green bond were allocated to support the development of six sustainable projects that received certification in accordance with LEED or BREEAM sustainable rating standards. Proceeds were also allocated to two renewable energy and eleven energy efficiency projects.
These projects not only delivered significant environmental benefits, they also supported the local communities through expanded construction and permanent employment. Visit Digital Realty’s Green Bonds page for more information.
Across our global managed portfolio, we implement ISO management systems to ensure we have consistent processes in place to support continuous improvement. We retained 100% of all existing ISO certifications in 2019. In addition to the ISO standards listed below, 100% of our Singapore portfolio is certified under SS564 Green Data Centres standard for Energy and Environmental Management Systems.
ISO 9001 (Quality Management)
ISO 14001 (Environmental Management)
ISO 27001 (Information Security Management)
ISO 50001 (Energy Management)
ISO 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety)
We are the first global data center REIT to adopt green lease standards for use in data centers. Digital Realty launched its green lease program for applicable contract types to better align interests between landlord and tenants to incentivize energy and resource efficiency investments, streamline renewable energy procurement and support sustainable building certifications. Resources and expertise from the Green Lease Leaders program have supported the successful development of our green lease standards.
Among new leases signed in 2017 since the launch of this initiative, we have shown a 78% adoption rate. More broadly, while this program has been in place for only 3 years, 6.4% of our global portfolio has green lease provisions in place and we see the high level of adoption as a strong indicator of continued success.