Government regulation for datacenters in Amsterdam

The local Dutch newspaper Parool published an interesting article on the increased regulations for datacenters in the Amsterdam area. The city of Amsterdam has taken a leading role in bringing together datacenter operators, IT companies and environmental experts as part of their Climate Program. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 40% in 2025 compared to 1990 levels.

Amsterdam contains many high tech companies and datacenters account for 6% of total CO2 emissions of the city. Therefore the city is organizing a Green IT project. The objective of this project is to facilitate the exchange of best practices from the leading players in order to improve efficiencies. In fact the article in Parool is based on a report of the Energy research Center of the Netherlands which was based on the first results of among others our new climate neutral datacenter. Based on this report the city is planning to impose a Energy Usage Efficiency (EUE) factor of 1.3.

This EUE is derived from the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) which is a metric developed by the Greengrid and is the total facility kW power divided by the kW power used by the servers. The EUE differs from the PUE because it is expressed in kWh instead of kW. Datacenters built during the 90s typically have EUEs of around 1.8 – 2.2. This means that you need at least 1.8 kWh in overhead (such as cooling, lighting, UPS loss, transmission losses etc.) for every kWh used by a server.

If the city will impose a mandatory PUE of 1.3 on new datacenters, then this will seriously raise the hurdle for datacenter operators. We have already made many innovations in our datacenter and will meet this requirement. Our operations director Rolph wrote earlier an interesting post in this blog on our datacenter innovations. However, for others it will not be easy because many managers of datacenters are typicslly not rewarded for efficiency. Rather their incentive is on reliability and uptime. Moreover, these types of efficiencies require substantial more capital as the investments in energy saving technologies are expensive and have a relatively long pay back time. It requires therefore a radical change in culture to meet these new requirements and companies will have to make more risks in their designs to meet these objectives.

The ECN report is well written and touches upon all technologies enabling to achieve substantial savings ranging from geothermal cooling, free cooling, cold corridors, to absorption cooling. I really recommend this report for people interested in this subject.

We support this initiative of the city of Amsterdam and hope that other countries will adopt a similar approach in order for this to have a meaningful impact on a global scale and provide for a level playing field within the industry. The European Commission is also talking about a code of conduct for datacenters and hopefully they can take inspiration from this report.

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