Nordic operator Bulk Data Centers has committed to providing customers with 100 percent renewable energy 24/7, by matching hourly consumption with local hydropower. In the US, Iron Mountain has made a similar promise.
Both colocation operators are addressing the limitations of renewable energy certificates and power purchase agreements (PPAs), which match the energy used on an annual basis. This means that many renewable energy claims are misleading, as they are not based on 24/7 PPAs or hourly power matching schemes. Without annual matching, customers would be consuming fossil-powered electricity at times when renewable generation is low.
The situation is harder for colocation providers, which buy energy on behalf of multiple customers in a single facility, some of whom will want different levels of renewable energy provision. Previously, 24/7 renewable power matching has been tried by large hyperscale players, like Google, and Microsoft which operate their own data centers and deal directly with power utilities. The Microsoft project is operating with Vattenfall in Sweden.
Customers at Bulk's OS-IX facility in Oslo, Norway can opt to have renewable energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through an agreement with Akershus Energi, which owns the nearby Bingsfoss hydropower plant. Bulk and Akershus built the OS-IX data center jointly in 2014, and Bulk bought out its partner in 2022.
Renewable power consultancy Becour, which advised Bulk, says this will make OS-IX one of very few data centers in Europe that offers renewable power matching to colocation customers.
In fact, the offer may make little direct difference as most of Norway's electricity comes from renewable sources (the country has a large oil industry, but that is mostly for transport and export).
“The Norwegian electricity mix is already close to 100 percent renewable, and therefore a preferred data center location for a number of international customers. Renewable power matching brings sustainable operations to an even higher level”, said Stine Stine Bjønnstu Holthe, Head of Sustainability at Bulk Infrastructure Group.
“Renewable power matching is aimed at customers with the highest standards and the most transparent reporting policies with respect to sustainability. It represents a new level of transparency where the customers can be certain of the electricity's origin”, said Tor Ribland, vice president operations at Bulk Data Centers.
“Guarantees of origin is a key market in carbon accounting, which today is the main method for companies to measure greenhouse gas emissions and -reductions. With increasing demands on sustainability reporting from both regulators and lenders, and the need for real-time data to achieve sustainable business management we are very excited to be able to deliver guarantees of origin to Bulk," said Helene Moen, sustainability manager, Akershus Energi.
Iron Mountain steps up
Meanwhile, in the US, Iron Mountain has hailed a "landmark series of transactions" which commits the company to 24/7 carbon-free energy (CFE) electricity procurement. US renewable provider RPD Energy will be the lead architect of renewable energy solutions and enable retail colocation customers to buy 24/7 renewable energy.
“The normal 100 percent renewable [energy] claim that we’ve had in the past, and most companies have today, still leaves a lot of carbon on the grid,” Iron Mountain director of energy and sustainability Chris Pennington told SDxCentral, adding that the company has made the deal on behalf of colo customers who are constrained by the power deals signed by Iron Mountain: “Our customers can’t go and form their own utility agreement for power inside our site. They’re relying on us to provide it to them.”
Iron Mountain has 21 data centers in North America, APAC, and Europe, but RPD operates in North America, serving its 24/7 carbon-free PPA across multiple independent system operator (ISO) regions in the US. DCD has asked Iron Mountain for details of which geographies it is supporting with 24/7 carbon-free energy.
In 2021, Iron Mountain announced it was tracking its carbon hourly, using a service from carbon accounting firm Cleartrace, and said at the time that it intended to go 100 percent carbon-free.