COVID-19 and related quarantine protocols have pushed the world even more online than it already was. Global energy consumption for all things digital has been increasing by about 9% per year between 2015 and 2020, and is tracking to be responsible for about 8% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by 2025, according to the Shift Project. In fact, digital activities in 2020 are estimated to emit as much CO2 as the whole of the Middle East did in 2017.
Many companies recognize this risk and are responding to the call for more sustainably minded business practices. As of July 2020, over 900 companies have committed to take science-based climate action. Additionally, organizations will look to reduce their carbon footprints across leased spaces and data centers. Physical space landlords and data center operators that can offer facilities and services powered by renewable energy will have an opportunity to distinguish themselves in the market, drive business, and make a positive environmental impact.
Rob Johnson, CEO of Vertiv, says, "The industry wrestles with capacity challenges and advanced applications that are forcing significant changes to data centers of all shapes and sizes. The message to data center equipment providers is clear: The status quo is not acceptable."
But this brings about a challenge: With such an immediate need for environmentally friendly computing, how can data centers develop more efficient energy use strategies in an increasingly resource-hungry world? While there is no simple answer, providers can take steps in the right direction. Data centers must first focus on managing their existing waste before outsourcing new solutions.
It's important to ask the hard questions: "Are you making good use of the energy you have? You can have giant facilities cooled down to the temp of a meat locker, only using 40% of the space, with 25-30% of the servers running with no one knowing what they're contributing to," Jennifer Cooke, research director at IDC, says.
Finding ways to trim unnecessary energy use is the first step to meet customer demands for sustainable decisions in the supply chain. Akamai seeks to lead the way.
Modern data centers can be a part of corporate efficiency. Since 2015, Akamai's platform has grown by more than 182% but used 61% less energy per gigabit of network capacity. As our platform continues to expand, it is our responsibility to minimize our impact as much as possible. Like Akamai, many companies are looking toward their supply chain for emissions reductions, but struggle to incite change. As a thought leader, Akamai is already innovating ways to reduce our own impact through software, hardware, and platform efficiencies; procuring renewable energy in our most critical markets; and partnering with green colocation providers wherever possible. Being born and bred out of MIT, our next logical step to advance sustainable action was to develop meaningful education connected to our roots.
With our ongoing Future of Internet Power (FoIP) efforts, Akamai is working with our peers across the internet ecosystem to develop a new initiative. Enter "LESSEN." The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), the gold standard in renewable energy procurement, in partnership with Akamai, has announced the creation of the LESsor Sustainable Energy Network (LESSEN). The first-of-its-kind program is a relevant, meaningful, and interactive 10-month educational training for real estate landlords and colocation data center operators with an aim toward developing successful and long-lasting, sustainable energy strategies. LESSEN will build on the success of REBA's FoIP initiative, which has already enabled the who's who of the internet to take action and implement principles to increase environmental sustainability by addressing an industry lag in the development of renewable energy usage across the colocation world.
Industry collaboration and training like the LESSEN program is flint to spark the necessary change in lessening the environmental impacts of modern internet usage. However, it is not the only way. Encouraging collective legislative action toward carbon neutrality is just as important.
Akamai recently participated in a variety of legislative efforts with the help of the Ceres BICEP Network, focused on supporting greener and healthier communities. Along with more than 100 other companies, Akamai sponsored the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative to improve transportation and develop the clean energy economy in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Akamai was also a part of the Virginia Clean Economy Act to help scale cost-effective clean energy resources with the intention of putting the state of Virginia on a path toward a 100% carbon-free electricity system by 2050.
Akamai is working to reduce the impact of our business. Our goal is to accelerate meaningful progress toward a net-zero emissions future for our business, and to be part of a broader net-zero emissions movement future for all. But we can't do it alone. Sustainability work requires a collective voice.