Sustainability is one of the biggest issues facing data centre operators. There are huge concerns about the energy requirements of data centres, with some countries publicly taking this into account in planning decisions.
The Dutch Data Centre Association, for example, estimates that data centres currently make up 3% of all Dutch electricity usage, although this is expected to rise to 10% by 2030. Regional authorities in Amsterdam have placed a ban on the construction of any more data centres within the city, because of the concerns about the strain this will place on the city’s electricity supply. The Dutch senate has placed on hold plans by Meta to build a massive data centre in the region, by voting to block the sale of the land required.
It is, therefore, reasonable to expect that national and regional data centre associations might be taking a lead on sharing good practice about sustainability. However, in reality, the level of engagement is very different. Here is our round-up of who’s doing what, based on information on their websites. We have divided the associations into three groups, by level of activity
Group 1: Little or no evidence of action
Some data centre associations have little or no explicit information about sustainability on their websites. This includes Host in Scotland and the Polish Data Centre Association. This does not necessarily mean that no work is underway. However, there is little evidence for it apart from some scattered social media activity from Host in Scotland back in early 2020, most of which relates to work led by the Scottish Government rather than Host in Scotland.
Group 2: Work under way but a scattered approach
Some association websites show evidence of some early thinking within the association about sustainability, climate and energy demands. However, the approach is rather scattered, and not fully organised yet.
Host in Ireland, for example, has held or organised several events about sustainability,  and has also published at least one blog on the issue. Similarly, the Africa Data Centres Association has a mention of a webinar about power usage effectiveness (PUE) in hot climates. However, it does not appear to be pursuing a more stringent approach despite the importance of discussing how we cool data centres in hot countries.
The Green Grid, based in Oregon but working globally, is currently running several projects that might contribute to sustainability. It has also published some blogs on the issue, but again, there is little evidence of an organised focus on the issue.
Group 3: An organised approach to action on sustainability
The third group is most numerous, and it includes all those organisations who have clearly already put substantial work into issues of sustainability in relation to data centres. These associations might, for example, have published white papers on the issue, or have a dedicated tab on their website to showcase work on sustainability. Some examples of work include:
- At regional level, the European Data Centre Association (EUDCA) is leading on a Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact.
Data centre operators and trade associations who sign the pact are agreeing to take action to make data centres climate neutral by 2030. Actions include setting and meeting targets for power usage effectiveness, including in warmer climates, and for both existing and new data centres. Signatories also agree to use clean energy and move towards carbon neutrality, and reduce their water usage. All associations that are signatories must publish their commitment on their websites.
- Some organisations have working groups or special interest groups focused on sustainability
The UK-based Data Centre Alliance has two special interest groups, on energy efficiency and sustainability. The groups work closely together, and the energy efficiency group is also linked to groups setting European and UK standards on designing and building data centres. The sustainability group’s remit includes energy efficiency, and it also covers skills development and workforce, and materials usage. The Danish data centre association, DDI, also has a working group on energy and sustainability.
- Several national associations have a strong focus on sustainability, including dedicated webpages or extensive publications
The Dutch Data Centre Association, the Finnish Data Centre Forum and the German Datacenter Association all have dedicated webpages on sustainability. They have published a range of resources for data centre operators to use. France Datacenter also provides resources for data centre operators, published in both English and French.
 https://www.germandatacenters.com/de/think-tank/gda-energy-efficiency-sustainability/, https://www.fdcf.fi/data-center-sustainability/, https://www.fdcf.fi/data-center-sustainability/environment/ and https://www.dutchdatacenters.nl/en/positions/energy-sustainability/