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Taking a Data Center to Net-Zero Carbon by 2030

How Sabey Data Centers is Fulfilling Its Climate Pledge You know data exists—big data, manufacturing data, sales data, economic data, personal data, sports data, health data—but do you know where […]

How Sabey Data Centers is Fulfilling Its Climate Pledge

You know data exists—big data, manufacturing data, sales data, economic data, personal data, sports data, health data—but do you know where it lives? Or what keeps all this information accessible with a single click? The answer is data centers; sprawling buildings built on huge pieces of land that house tons of computing and networking equipment.  

The social and economic benefits of the data storage, backup, recovery, and management that happens in these specialized facilities are critical. From streaming workouts to global financial transactions, every aspect of life relies on data that needs to be collected, processed, and distributed. 

Today’s world needs data centers. 

Society’s environmental footprint is reduced by the technology data centers enable (e.g. paper vs. electronic records), but there is no getting around the fact that data centers use a significant amount of energy. 

Casey Moore, Energy and Sustainability Manager of Sabey Data Centers, recently shared how Sabey is leading the charge to be a net-zero carbon organization by 2030. With over three million square feet of mission-critical space, Sabey is one of the longest-lived and largest privately-owned, multi-tenant data center providers in the world. 

Sabey and Sustainability

Sabey’s five campuses in three states include colocation, powered shell, and build-to-suit data centers. The data centers are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year across their entire portfolio. Constant uptime means they’re always using energy.  

Data centers consume more energy than some countries around the world. As an industry, data facilities use an estimated 200 Terawatt Hours (TwH) per year, globally. The environmental impact is enormous regardless of which resource you’re measuring, which is why Sabey is committed to mitigating it’s relatively small contribution to this impact. 

One of Sabey’s core values is to be insightful stewards of the environment, and they understand the urgency of reducing their carbon footprint. Throughout its history, Sabey has always built, owned, and operated energy-efficient data centers to reduce environmental impact wherever possible. Whole building energy efficiency has always been pivotal to their business model. The more energy-efficient data centers become, the less electricity their customers consume, saving them money and helping them achieve their own sustainability goals.  

Right now, Sabey is working diligently to understand, measure, and reduce all their emissions, including supply chain and embodied carbon associated with construction. The company’s existing greenhouse gas (GHG) goals are very ambitious. First, they’re targeting net-zero by 2029 across all facilities and vehicles (scope one emissions) and purchased energy (scope two emissions). Sabey leadership anticipates reducing scope three emissions will take longer, but they are already proactively measuring and tracking activities up and downstream, such as transportation, distribution, and waste management. 

“If you want to go far, go together.”  

These simple words are helping Sabey solve complicated problems. Their team’s commitment to responsible environmental behavior includes surrounding themselves with like-minded leaders and doers.  

As an active member of the Clean Energy Buyers Alliance (CEBA), Sabey’s energy leaders are continually engaging with numerous people in the data center industry and specifically sustainability and energy professionals. It’s interesting learning where everybody else is on their energy management journey, even though energy efficiency has always been a part of how Sabey operates its data centers.  

Balancing energy efficiency with productivity and customer expectations  

For years, Sabey extrapolated energy consumption data from the usage captured on their electric bills. Now, they utilize the ENERGY STAR portfolio manager to track energy, water, and waste consumption. Centralizing everything through that platform for years helps validate data and respond to blips quickly.  

Consistently tracking the same data points longitudinally and across the entire portfolio helps identify and define abnormalities. If managers see unexpected water usage from Time 1 to Time 2, they can pinpoint the cause. Was it higher than average summer temperatures or a water leak? If it was the former, the facility team might need to increase next year’s usage projections based on the weather forecasts. However, if maintenance repaired a leaky pipe, consumption and costs estimates will decrease. Most importantly, data-driven knowledge keeps Sabey on track to honor their Climate Pledge. 

A collective effort to do more, sooner 

Casey shared that Sabey’s primary reason for signing the Climate Pledge was the community aspect. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Somebody said that to her once and it rings especially true when it comes to battling climate change. The Climate Pledge brings people and resources together.  

The Science Based Target Initiative approved Sabey’s net-zero goals even before they joined the Climate Pledge. There’s a ten-year difference between the two organizations’ end dates: the Climate pledge is net-zero across all emissions by 2040, and the Science-Based Target Initiative aligns with the Paris Climate Agreement aiming for net-zero by 2050. 

Sabey is part of the community of organizations transitioning towards a low carbon future. We all have access to resources and support navigating best practices for meeting net-zero carbon emissions.  

Greenhouse gas accounting can be difficult, especially in the data center industry; the Climate Pledge makes it easier. The ability to see what other organizations with similar net-zero goals are doing to reach their targets is incredibly helpful. “I trust the Climate Pledge,” confirmed Casey, “and appreciate their making these tools available to energy teams and corporate leaders with limited resources to launch sustainability journeys.” 

What happens next?  

The timelines for net-zero by 2040 or 2050, are gaining international attention. Participants in last year’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) committed to curbing methane emissions and aligning the finance sector with net-zero by 2050, among other bold initiatives. Federal registration that aims to improve our overall infrastructure will change the game, although who knows exactly how or to what degree. For example, what’s the economic impact of transitioning from fossil fuels, a huge part of the US economy, to carbon-free energy? And how do we address those unknown or unintended consequences?  

Established and developing countries are facing these same obstacles. The promise of technology is exciting and daunting. Globally we share the same objectives but how do we implement them worldwide? Casey’s advice is to start at home by understanding organizational core values. Identify the “whys” behind the “what.” Is net-zero important to employees and customers? If so, why? How does climate change or company emissions levels impact individual and organizational levels? 

Like Sabey, organizations around the world are committing to responsible, greener operations. Regardless of size or capitalization, Casey offers the same concluding advice: start by assembling a sustainability team and setting goals consistent with company core values. Design measurement and tracking programs to accurately assess progress. Then use this data to celebrate success with employees, stakeholders, and the community.  

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