20 September 2019

Staying focused on data centre sustainability

Article written by Alex Teo, Manager, Investor Relations and Head of Sustainability

By its simplest definition, the word sustainability refers to the concept of balancing the needs of the present with the capability of future generations to also meet their requirements. At NEXTDC, we feel passionately about ensuring future generations have the same opportunities and resources that we have today.

In an era where digital transformation is a key enterprise priority, data has been described as “the new oil”. From a commercial point of view, it is arguably the single most valuable commodity in the world. The soaring market capitalisations of companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google bear testament to this claim.

Data is increasingly stored in specialist data centres which are full of hot, power-hungry computer equipment. This places enormous responsibility on the industry, to play its role in reducing the impact of ever-growing data volumes on ecosystems, communities and the biosphere.

We also know that analysts are predicting the amount of data in existence will continue to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future. Growth of efficient facilities to house that data, operating in a highly sustainable manner, such as NEXTDC, will mirror that.

Finding innovative and effective solutions that serve to reduce the environmental footprint of data centres is seen by many within the industry as a challenge. We are building the infrastructure platform that will fuel the growth of the digital economy and serve our generations for years to come, therefore we see this as a responsibility that we take seriously.

Our dedication to environmental sustainability is core to our beliefs at NEXTDC and continued investment into the operational and environmental sustainability of our data centres remains a priority for our business.

Organisations are looking for a trusted data centre partner who shares their sustainability objectives and that will remove the perceived complexities around operating sustainably. Sustainability is a fundamental part of our belief system. We help our customers and partners to achieve their sustainability goals faster which is a prime example why their critical workloads should be colocated in our data centres.

Doing the right thing by future generations is not the only reason why sustainability improvement is important to all of us at NEXTDC as well as to our customers and partners. More efficient data centres use less power and water, commodities which are increasingly a cost burden to industry as prices rise. This means that every efficiency we introduce to our operations also has a tangible bottom line benefit in terms of lower utility bills for the end customer.

Sustainable data centres start with how they are designed, engineered and operated.

So, what are we doing, to put our sustainability commitment into action?

At NEXTDC, the sustainability story starts with our award-winning in-house design, engineering and operations. Our Design and Engineering team recently won Datacenter Dynamics’ global Design & Engineering Team of the Year 2018, for its dedication to leveraging the best technology and the best partners, to create the world’s best data centres.

Concurrently, our Operations team was awarded Datacenter Dynamics’ global Operations Team of the Year 2018, for its tireless continuous fine-tuning and maintenance of our data centres as the most operationally sustainable in the market.

Also demonstrating our credentials are our multiple Uptime Institute certifications, including Tier IV Gold Operations at B2, and our market-leading Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE).

PUE is a standard metric which represents a ratio of total power consumption to power utilised by the IT load. Measured against an Australian industry average of 1.7:1, NEXTDC’s innovatively designed, engineered and operated facilities achieved a national average PUE of just 1.3 in FY18.

Our M1 and S1 facilities have also become the first, and only data centres in Australia to achieve and continue to operate at a NABERS five-star rating.

The NABERS badge can only be assigned to a building which has been subjected to rigorous auditing designed to probe every aspect of its environmental sustainability. Having been through that process, it is a badge we wear with great pride.

Sourcing renewable energy

NEXTDC is committed to increasing its use of renewable energy.

Our M1 facility in Port Melbourne includes a $1.2 million rooftop solar installation, one of the largest on-site rooftop solar arrays in Australia. It generates approximately 550 megawatt-hours of electricity annually which is equivalent to off-setting over 670 tonnes of CO2 per annum or taking 200 cars off the road.
We have also been a Principal Partner to the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP) since its inception in 2014. In FY18, financial close on MREP was achieved, enabling the construction of the 80MW Crowlands Wind Farm close to Ararat, Victoria. First delivery of power and environmental credits from the project were received in January 2019.

Carbon neutrality

The best carbon offset is the carbon that is not emitted in the first place. But to provide essential services to our customers, carbon emissions, particularly from electricity use, today are unavoidable.

Wherever we can’t source renewable energy, it is now offset by purchasing NCOS-approved carbon credits through a strategic partnership with Qantas Future Planet (QFP). NEXTDC became the first data centre provider to be certified 100% carbon neutral for our own corporate operations.

In the very near future, our relationship with QFP will be extended to offer our partners and customers the ability to opt-in to a NCOS certified colocation program which will see them offset their NEXTDC carbon footprint by sourcing carbon credits through our partnership with QFP.

Our goal is to achieve 100% zero net emissions and through our partnership with Qantas, we will work closely with our customers and partners to help them achieve the same.

Water and waste

The work we have done so far on renewables and carbon neutrality is just the beginning. We have a lot more to do to address the environmental footprint of our data centre operations. Two key areas of focus going forward will be on water usage and waste management. Watch this space!

In pursuit of continual improvement

All sustainability efforts at NEXTDC, including the lessons we learn from ongoing operational excellence, are core to achieving our goal of building and operating Australia’s most efficient and sustainable data centres now and in the many years to come. We continue to work hard every day in all facets of our business to set new benchmarks that lift the industry standard as a whole.

If you would like to know more about our commitment to sustainability, our sustainable data centres or how we can help you capitalise on the sustainable investments we have made, get in touch with our team.