As data center operators and IT leaders march toward clean energy goals, it’s becoming clear renewable energy and grid edge technologies will be a necessary part of the journey. This requires balancing energy supply and demand at the local level while transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables. However, this is a costly transition, even for the larger scale corporations making pledges today.

While sustainability equates to a greater good for the world at large, it’s sometimes difficult for operators and IT decision-makers to see the business benefits of these significant investments. Whether investing in hydrogen back-up solutions or implementing training programs to educate your workforce on new technologies, these digitization and sustainability efforts do not always come cheap. Ambitious goals can often seem out of reach.

There is value in investing in a greener data center by implementing grid edge technologies and taking advantage of renewable energy credits (REC). While it may be a lengthy process, there are significant ROIs in both cost savings and overall brand reputation.

Diving into the world of RECs

While not a direct carbon offset, RECs can help reduce emissions. Each REC represents one megawatt-hour of energy generated from renewable sources. This approach provides flexibility to specify the type of renewable energy, as well as to purchase RECs for facilities that do not have local utility green power options. Prices vary but are typically a fraction of the cost of utility green power programs. In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in hyper-scale data centers purchasing RECs. These are generally pursued as they offer sufficient cost benefits and they support externally stated goals of driving a greener company.

The use of energy credits has become more popular amongst Big Tech companies in aiding sustainability projects surrounding data center investments. Recently, Microsoft partnered with Longroad Energy on its 150-megawatt Sun Streams 2 photovoltaic solar power plant in Arizona and will use RECs to offset the energy use of its data centers in the state.

As businesses shift to leveraging renewables on the ground and investing in grid edge solutions like battery energy storage systems, hydrogen, and solar, purchasing RECs can help kickstart a lengthy process in meeting carbon emission goals.

Renewables driving enterprise success

While leveraging RECs may help businesses achieve greater sustainability, it often can be difficult to determine the ROI of investing in the credits, renewables, and grid edge solutions as a whole.

Despite this, there are significant benefits in investing in renewables beyond just achieving sustainability goals. Thanks to tax breaks and incentives, green no longer means costly. Data centers that can deliver on government incentives and directives to become cleaner will ultimately boost efficiency in the long term. A lot more data can be processed in an energy-efficient way when grid edge solutions are leveraged, streamlining processes and saving time and money.

  • Are there any other business benefits we can point to outside of brand reputation and ROI?
  • Are there any other details we can provide on how hydrogen/solar/battery storage/other grid tech can equate to a significant ROI?

Investing in a greener future also increases positive sentiment amongst customers. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), 80 percent of US consumers care about the use of renewable energy, highlighting that sustainability needs to be a corporate pillar for gaining customer trust and loyalty. Having goals to reduce carbon emissions is no longer just a “nice to have” for customers. If anything, it is now non-negotiable to fall in line with critical company values and goals.

More and more digital enterprises are looking to invest in a greener data center in order to meet sustainability goals. Modernizing today’s data center so that it is part of the grid and digitally advanced can be an undertaking, yet operators and IT decision-makers must consider taking appropriate actions in order to reap business benefits.

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