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What Data Centers Need From an Energy Strategy

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Our modern world runs on data.

According to IBM, 90 percent of all data was created in the last two years.

That intensive spike in data usage and generation has translated to some serious energy use in data centers across the globe. In fact, data centers are now estimated to make up a whopping 3 percent of total electricity consumption in the United States and 2 percent around the globe. To put the latter figure into perspective: data centers now consume more electricity than the United Kingdom each year.

Because the world’s demand for data isn’t expected to lessen anytime soon, electricity consumption by data centers will continue to exponentially climb, doubling every four years.

Such growth in data and energy usage bears significant costs for the companies running data centers and represents a potential dramatic spike in global CO2 emissions. Globally, data centers are already on par with airlines in terms of annual carbon emissions.

Thus, it is paramount for businesses to have a well-defined and executable energy management strategy for their data center, regardless of size. It’s also why several of the world’s biggest players in data – including Facebook, Google and Microsoft – have set aggressive renewable and sustainability targets for transforming the way their data centers use and procure electricity.

We’ve assembled some quick and easy tips to help data centers take their energy management strategy to the next level. 

1. Boost your data center’s energy efficiency

One constant and major opportunity for boosting the overall efficiency of data centers is improving cooling techniques.

At a very basic level and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, “a data center is rows and rows of servers, storing information on chains of hard drives that run continuously.” Continuous equipment use generates a significant amount of heat, which requires the equipment and center to be constantly cooled.

Highly energy-efficient data centers have developed a number of ways that help mitigate this problem, including:

  • Locating data centers in cool or windy locations;Switching servers not-in-use to a low power or standby mode;
  • Using air treatment systems that remove or redistribute hot air in the facility, instead of simply running air conditioning;
  • Utilizing artificial intelligence to optimize building cooling systems; and
  • Designing server systems that function reliably at higher temperatures.

2. Build resiliency into your data center operation.

Last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported U.S. customers experienced an average of 1.3 outages lasting four hours. Given most data centers run 24/7 with consumers and businesses depending on them, data center operators simply cannot tolerate the risk presented by service interruptions.

Direct Energy Business – along with Centrica Business Solutions – have developed a number of leading offerings that can help build data center resiliency, such as on-site solar, backup generation and batteries.

If you are looking to boost your facility’s resiliency, consider investing in a solar plus storage system. By combining solar with storage, your business will have relief from demand charges and also a potential opportunity to participate in net metering programs in your state.

3. Make renewables part of your energy strategy

To date, more than 150 of the world’s most influential companies have pledged to secure 100 percent renewable energy as part of the growing international RE100 initiative. Not surprisingly, many of those companies also own or operate data centers.

Retail energy suppliers, such as Direct Energy Business, can help data centers meet their sustainability and renewable energy commitments through a number of potential avenues, from renewable energy credits (RECs) to green power purchase agreements and other customized renewable solutions.

If your data center happens to be located in Virginia, recent legislation granted large commercial and industrial consumers – those that clear a 5 MW demand threshold – the ability to work directly with retail energy suppliers in procuring energy. What’s more is if a data center procures 100 percent renewable energy from a third party supplier, the threshold is eliminated.

4. Take firm control of your facility’s energy use

Your facility may be storing vast quantities of data while missing out on the most important piece of information: your own energy usage data.

To effectively improve the energy efficiency of your data center, you must first have visibility into how your business currently uses energy, right down to the device level.

Energy Insight – an innovative solution offered by our sister company Centrica Business Solutions – gives your business wireless sensors that transmit valuable, real-time usage data from your equipment, allowing you to identify any issues and boost the efficiency of your servers, hard drives, cooling systems and other equipment.

5. Find a layered risk management procurement solution

What type of energy procurement strategy makes the most sense for a data center?

In many cases, it’s a risk management solution that allows your facility to benefit from the stability of fixed prices while also taking advantage of market fluctuations when they occur by layering in energy purchases over time.

In comparison to many other types of facilities, data centers have a steady, unchanging electricity load that is essentially high, flat and consistent for 24/7, 365 days a year.

Given their constant electricity usage, it makes perfect sense for data centers to pursue two-pronged energy purchasing strategy: lock-in at a fixed price during peak hours on the electricity grid (usually daytime) and leverage more favorable, index-based pricing during off-peak hours (usually nighttime).

Layered, risk management purchasing strategies help large enterprises – such as data centers – do exactly that, giving them the best of both worlds: security and flexibility.

6. Seek expert energy advice

Regardless of facility type, guidance from a team of dedicated, proven experts – like the team at Direct Energy Business and Centrica Business Solutions – can develop and sharpen any energy management strategy.

After reviewing your data center facility’s energy usage, risk profile and sustainability goals, the team can help craft a customized strategy for energy procurement that delivers value for your business.

Looking for other ways to elevate your data center’s energy strategy? Contact your Direct Energy Business or Centrica Business Solutions account executive for more information.

Elevate your enterprise energy strategy

Posted: July 08, 2019

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