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Data center challenge: Regulations and policies for more sustainable operations

Rafael Garrido •

Data centers are essential to supporting and growing the rapid adoption of digitization, including high performance compute and artificial intelligence.   However, this growth has also raised awareness of the industry's energy consumption and environmental impact. 

The International Energy Agency's (IEA) report states that improvements in energy efficiency have, however, helped moderate growth in energy demand from data centers and data transmission networks, which each account for 1-1.5% of global electricity use

In response to this challenge, new industry regulations focusing on improving energy efficiency, managing energy consumption, and reducing environmental impact to move toward more sustainable operations have emerged. 

This includes implementing cutting-edge technologies such as more efficient cooling systems, using clean energy sources such as solar and wind power, implementing water recycling and reuse systems, reducing consumption in day-to-day operations, investing in server virtualization, and finding ways to offset emissions.

A proposal for self-regulation

While governments around the world debate and establish these regulations, it is important to note that many companies in the data center industry are already taking proactive steps toward sustainability measures. 

For example, the initiative supported by the European Data Center Association is part of the Climate Neutral Data Center Pact, which promotes self-regulation and seeks to commit operators to support the European Green Pact and achieve the ambitious greenhouse gas reductions targets in the Climate Change Act. 

These stakeholders have committed to proactively make data centers carbon neutral by 2030. One of the key actions is that from January 1, 2025, new data centers operating at full capacity in cold climates will have to meet an annual PUE target of 1.3, and new data centers operating at full capacity in warm climates will have to meet a target of 1.4. 

Data Center Knowledge reported that the United States is also promoting data center efficiency and sustainability. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced funding of up to $42 million to support the development of energy-efficient, high-performance cooling solutions for data centers, and is part of the Biden administration’s goals to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

How will Latin America move forward?

Latin America is closely monitoring these global regulations as sustainability becomes a key competitive factor in the data center market. However, the industry recognizes that it is more than a market trend, it is a necessity to ensure the future of business and our environment. 

With these new regulations, data center companies are looking to be prepared to meet the requirements, which means addressing sustainability at all stages, from design to day-to-day operations. 

At Vertiv, we have developed the Guide to Data Center Sustainability for data center owners and operators seeking best practices for designing and operating low-impact data centers, as well as complementary technologies evolving to support higher utilization and increased use of renewable energy. You can also contact your local Vertiv representative to learn more about products and services that can help your data center reduce its environmental impact.

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