Dutch Datacenter Association, Green IT Amsterdam and Nederland ICT have jointly released the “Dutch Datacenter Report on Green IT”, aiming to “inspire even more commitment, innovation and collaboration with respect to the theme of sustainability.” The report provides an overview of the current sustainability initiatives undertaken in the Dutch data center industry and offers a holistic view on the state of Green IT in The Netherlands. Here are some important takeaways summarized by NRG Magazine.
Data centers are a pillar of the digital economy and digital infrastructure. They are also one of the biggest electricity consumers and thus bear a heavy responsibility when it comes to integrating sustainable energy practices. The latter implies, first and foremost, lowering their energy consumption and CO₂ emissions. Dutch data centers subscribe to this notion, also acknowledging the fact that sustainable practices define how well they can compete on the market, both domestically and internationally. Dutch IT industry is actively seeking new ways to improve its energy performance through better design and application of advanced cooling techniques in the data centers; attention is being paid to alternative sources of energy and broader industry collaboration.
The overall energy consumption in the IT sector is described as stable, with the annual increase in the energy consumption being less than 1% over the past three years.
Within the group of companies in MJA3-ICT*, about a half of the energy is consumed by data centers, and this consumption is showing a slight increase. This is not surprising given that this sector is energy-intensive, and that the number of data centers keeps growing following the increase in the demand for data and digital services. In 2012, CE Delft estimated the joint energy consumption of data centers in The Netherlands to be approximately 1.6 TWh, which constituted 2% of the total Dutch electricity consumption. However, some actors in the Dutch IT industry have been adopting pioneering sustainable practices that are expected to have a long-term positive effect on the energy consumption in the sector.
Following the successful example of the foreign counterparts like Google and Apple, Dutch data centers have begun investing in greener facilities. KPN became the first party in The Netherlands to use sustainable energy for their data centers on a large scale; Eneco and Google have teamed up for a new data center in Eemshaven that will be powered by windmills; EvoSwitch has partnered with Nuon to run its facilities partly on wind power.
Furthermore, more emphasis is being put on turning Dutch data centers into flexible energy players. This includes applying novel technologies that enable smarter energy supply and energy management. Although the industry has witnessed some successful examples in this context, there have also been cases when such efforts were made impossible by limiting data centers’ place in regional area development and zoning.
Utilizing residual heat has been outlined as particularly promising technology, even though this process requires additional facilities and access to the local heat grid. The data center of KPN in Eindhoven became a successful pioneer in this area, having gotten access to the grid and supplying heat to other users on the High Tech Campus. Furthermore, Previder uses waste heat for its headquarters, and Equinix—for the neighboring buildings. It is important to let data centers into areas where a variety of other actors and business can be found. Their residual hear can be utilized to warm greenhouses, to name but one example.
Energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important in the design of data centers. With this regard, Dutch data centers look up to international requirements and certifications. Some of the best energy efficient practices for data centers are found in the manuals of the American Society for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Cooling (commonly known as ASHRAE); as well as in the NPR 5313, which is the set of practical guidelines for data centers developed by NEN, the Dutch standardization organization.
Dutch data centers seek to comply with the certifications like BREEAM-NL (a Dutch alternative to the American LEED certification), ISO 14001 and ISO 50001, and others. Furthermore, many Dutch data centers are built on the principles of Tier certification, the US-born evaluating system for data center performance; although few go all lengths to become officially recognized as such. One of those is the recently opened KPN Datacenter at the HTC Eindhoven, which has been officially classified as a Tier IV data center—this means that its architecture can withstand serious technological incidents without affecting the server’s uptime.
*MJA3 is group of more than a thousand Dutch companies who jointly committed to improve their energy efficiency by an average of 2% between 2005 and 2020. In 2008, Nederland ICT joined the group as a sector, hence the MJA3-ICT.