Experts have predicted the amount of energy used by data centers will triple in the next decade, making it more critical than ever for data center providers to identify opportunities for efficiency. Data center operators are also demanding 24/7 visibility into important energy and electrical data to make informed decisions about server load and to optimize electrical capacity.
The need to verify conservation measures and comply with energy-performance standards such as ISO 50001 is driving granular energy-consumption reporting. Additionally, adoption of carbon-emission targets and reporting are increasing in the data center space as sustainability moves from an afterthought to a business strategy.
Although the need for efficient, sustainable business has never been greater, a recent study found that most organizations are failing to implement the necessary steps to integrate and advance their programs. In fact, most companies still take fairly conventional approaches to energy and carbon management, and few are coordinating activity between procurement, operations and sustainability departments. This disjointed approach can stunt ROI.
One managed-cloud-services provider in the U.K., however, has turned its energy-management challenges into opportunities and substantial savings. A fast-growing cloud-computing company, iomart is accredited as a Tier One partner by all major cloud vendors including Microsoft, VMware, EMC and AWS. As it continues to grow, the company is applying the same guiding principles for sustainable growth it follows for customers to its own organization. A winning formula of greater efficiency, lower costs and more flexibility has yielded considerable savings.
How did the company achieve this feat? Working with Schneider Electric, iomart built a strategic, integrated approach to energy and carbon management across its data centers. More specifically, it brought procurement, energy and sustainability teams together to compare data and develop shared strategies to manage consumption and emissions as well as to cut spending. This integrated approach, also called active energy management, ultimately helped reduce its energy use, meet energy compliance standards and manage volatile energy costs.
Below are four main steps iomart took to share critical information across departments and use energy-procurement data to support energy and sustainability reporting.
- Step 1: Buy energy smarter. The company’s first challenge was to reduce costs by buying energy more strategically. Schneider Electric helped deploy a risk-management solution to respond to the market in an agile way, leading to 13 percent savings under contract. With early successes from a smarter approach to buying energy, the team wanted to build a more strategic and integrated approach to other energy and sustainability opportunities.
- Step 2: Meet energy and sustainability standards. Energy-efficiency and sustainability goals were integrated to comply with voluntary and mandatory standards including the Climate Change Agreement, the Carbon Reduction Commitment and ISO 50001. Sharing data across departments was crucial to compliance, including using energy-procurement data to support energy and sustainability reporting. By achieving ISO 50001 accreditation in December 2016, iomart demonstrated its commitment to customers as a responsible data center provider—and it has generated €1.5 million in savings to date. Strict governance, monitoring of energy consumption and PUE, and rebates contributed to these savings.
- Step 3: Conduct audits to uncover big savings. Energy audits were part of the ISO 50001 accreditation process, uncovering new energy-saving opportunities. Using a continuous efficiency approach, iomart identified a total of €150,000 in further savings potential, with monitoring revealing more opportunities to save. Energy-saving opportunities included management of set points and dead-band zones in existing cooling systems and upgraded air-conditioning units.
- Step 4: Use software to enable transparency. With integrated decision making, iomart continues to create new opportunities. And it supports that effort by identifying and prioritizing improvements using advanced tools and analytics. Resource Advisor, a software platform for enterprise energy and sustainability data management, allows the company to automate processes, support the compliance team and visualize data to turn information into action.
The results speak for themselves. Now, iomart can efficiently manage energy use in its data centers and has the visibility to make informed decisions in the short, medium and long term. The true success of its approach is the integration of people and strategy. Starting with energy procurement and adding efficiency and sustainability, teams came together and worked closely with the company’s finance department to deliver impressive results.
When companies operate programs in silos, they miss revenue or savings opportunities—a notable gap for those looking to balance profitability and environmental responsibility. Integrated energy and carbon management provides a holistic view of data and resources to reduce consumption, drive innovation and maximize savings.
By taking a strategic, holistic path to efficiency and sustainability, iomart has become a model for other organizations looking to embark on a journey to active energy management.
About the Author
Sara Hoefkens manages a team of international representatives that work with clients to structure effective supply-side management programs, helping them to buy energy and other utilities smarter and to cut costs. Before joining Schneider Electric in 2008, Sara worked in a number of business-development positions at global IT solution and services providers.