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Can Colocation Help You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

By: Ernest Sampera on March 13, 2019

With climate change increasingly becoming a top-of-mind issue for consumers, organizations are going to great lengths to demonstrate their sustainability credentials. In fact, a 2018 Nielsen report even found that products with legitimate claims to sustainability practices outperformed their competitors in terms of growth. For many customers, environmental and social consciousness is fast becoming a key differentiator in a competitive marketplace.

In this environment, companies that fail to reduce their carbon footprint face the possibility of falling behind their more sustainability-conscious competitors. Major tech players like Apple, Amazon, and Google aren’t the only ones pushing to “go green.” Even established companies like Wal-Mart, Anheuser-Busch, and General Motors are aiming to significantly shift their energy dependence away from fossil fuels in the coming decade.

Power Demands and Carbon Footprint

The term “carbon footprint” refers to the amount of greenhouse gas produced in the course of an organization’s everyday activity, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). In essence, it is a function of its power usage. If an organization uses a lot of energy, a lot of fossil fuels need to be burned in order to meet their electricity needs. As the market for renewable energy has become increasingly diversified over the last ten years (growing from 9 percent of all US energy in 2008 to 18 percent by 2018), companies have many new options for investing in green power.

Most people think of solar panels and wind turbines when they think of renewable energy generation, but most organizations can’t afford to invest in the extensive infrastructure needed to generate this power on-site. A far easier and more effective approach is to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), each one of which represents a megawatt of electrical power produced by renewable means. Purchasing RECs allows companies to invest in green power even if they’re operating in a market where direct renewable energy is not available.

Navigating the regulatory waters of the renewable energy generation market can be complicated and expensive, however. For smaller organizations with limited resources, it can be especially difficult. They may lack the bargaining power to deal with their local energy provider. More importantly, they may also be saddled with high-energy costs due to on-premises IT infrastructure with excessive power demands.

Fortunately, colocation providers can help them address both issues.

Colocation as the Carbon Killer

On-premises data solutions tend to be very inefficient in terms of power usage. The company rarely has enough visibility and control over its infrastructure to optimize operations, which leaves servers running when they’re not needed, generating excess heat that must be managed by cooling solutions, which themselves demand quite a bit of power. In most cases, this infrastructure is located in a building that isn’t designed for computer equipment, leading to a range of inefficiencies that cause power to be wasted.

All of these little issues add up over time to a big bill from the power company and the sizable carbon footprint that comes with it.

By colocating those same IT assets with a data center, however, organizations can secure a much more efficient deployment in a facility built from the ground up to optimize computing infrastructure. Data center infrastructure management software makes it possible to fine-tune performance, powering down unused equipment to reduce energy and cooling demands. And when the servers do need to run more intensive workloads, the resulting heat is managed far more effectively with sophisticated cooling technology and rack design. All of this results in colocation customers using less energy to run the same workloads. They not only save money on power costs, but also reduce their carbon footprint because less fossil fuel needs to be burned to meet their energy needs.

But the carbon savings don’t end there. Modern data centers have proven to be innovative leaders when it comes to building sustainable, green power solutions. As major players in the energy market, data centers can leverage their buying power to encourage energy companies to invest in green power more aggressively through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). They can also supplement the renewable energy industry by purchasing RECs.

All of this means that colocation customers are both using energy more efficiently and purchasing more renewable energy in the process. These two factors combined can significantly lower an organization’s carbon footprint, which is especially valuable for small to medium-sized companies that might not have the resources to invest directly in renewable energy generation.

The world’s data centers may consume a huge amount of energy each year, but they have also invested heavily in renewable energy generation and sustainability practices over the last fifteen years to ensure that they can keep growing to meet the data needs of users. By colocating their IT infrastructure with a data center, companies can take advantage of those investments and greatly reduce their carbon footprint in the process.

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