- With the increasing use of the internet and the dependency on computer systems and networks, India is seeing an increasing demand for data centers. However, these data centers also leave a negative environmental footprint.
- Sustainable data centers would need to be powered by renewable energy sources and would need proper mechanisms to save water, segregate and dispose waste.
- The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in November 2022 released recommendations for a regulatory framework for promoting data centres.
Recent focus on green building infrastructure could provide an impetus to green or sustainable data centers in India, say experts. Some of the sustainable actions would include reduction in energy demand and related infrastructure, saving water, use of renewable energy resources, waste segregation and proper disposal.
Data centers are buildings that store computer systems and associated components. With the increasing use of the internet and the dependency on computer systems and networks for everyday activities, the country is seeing an increasing demand for data centers. However, these data centers also leave a negative environmental footprint due to the high amount of power they consume.
Aiming for a global hub in cloud computing, content hosting and delivery, and data communication systems and services, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in November 2022 released recommendations on Regulatory Framework for Promoting Data Economy Through Establishment of Data Centers (DCs), Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), and Interconnect Exchanges (IXPs) in India.
India’s Data Center Policy 2020, released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) also acknowledges absence of specialised building norms to construct data centers, geographically limited submarine cable network connectivity, high cost of capital and operational expenditure.
The IGBC (Indian Green Building Council), a division of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), has welcomed TRAI’s recent recommendations for promoting data centers in India and considered it as a step forward in examining drawbacks that limit data centers to work efficiently, keeping in mind India-specific requirements.
Speaking to Mongabay-India, Shivraj Dhaka, Senior Counselor, CII and IGBC said, “IGBC promotes the ideal PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.4 to 1.5 for promoting green data centers, by taking into consideration the viewpoints of data center owners. Singapore and the Netherlands have set their PUE’s to 1.3 and 1.2, respectively.” Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) indicates the energy efficiency of a data centre. It is the ratio of the total amount of energy used by a data center facility to the power supplied to the computing equipment.
TRAI, in its recommendations has envisioned that the IGBC along with Telecommunication Engineering Center (TEC) should be “entrusted with task of framing certification standards of green DCs in India and the government must enforce such schemes to invite request for proposals (RFP) on an experimental basis for adopting new technologies and methods to promote green DCs.”
Certification standards are very much essential to classify data centers akin to Uptime Institute’s classification of Tier I, Tier II, Tier III and Tier IV categories by measuring their working efficiencies, redundancies, power consumption, cooling capacities, share of renewable resources, and contingency planning etc., as inferred from TRAI.
TRAI recommends, “For overall development of green data centers in India, energy-banking provisions for Data Centers and Data Center Parks producing renewable green energy should be facilitated by the Ministry of Power on yearly basis.”
Further, states can also examine options of extending capital and interest subsidy to data centers or data parks that are ab-initio endeavouring and obtaining green data center certifications. Availability of surplus power in Indian states and robust yet extensive fiberization is still insufficient to match global players. Thus, catching up on alternatives of renewable energy resources is a prerequisite, the recommendations noted.
TRAI has suggested that the rating system needs to be India-specific, pushing the requirement of national standards and codes to certify data centers operating under prevalent conditions, for instance, codes and standards applied by the NBC (National Building Code), ECBC (Energy Conservation Building Code), guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
To assess efficiency and functioning of green data centers, IGBC provides a green data center accreditation consisting of various criteria and standards.
The IGBC green data center rating system addresses priorities like reduction in energy demand and related infrastructure, saving water, use of renewable energy resources, waste segregation and proper disposal, aiming to create new benchmarks amid national standards and codes.
Expressing his views on the given rating system to promote greener data centers across India, Shivraj Dhaka said, “A rating system is a measure for understanding the practical limitations to make a user-friendly guideline for DCs. Certifying DCs will provide an assurance about their working standards and would also inspire others to implement and follow the same. The Green DC rating system covers a holistic approach, taking into account the sustainable bearings. By implementing the guidelines, a DC can become more efficient towards its operation and validation approach.”
All India-based data centers need to rely on 95 percent renewable-based resources, calling for their dependency on sustainable supplies for power consumption and utilisation. Additionally, factors controlling global warming – ‘reduction of carbon footprints, minimising ozone layer depletion, and other environment-related threats and issues’, must be utterly kept in mind. Missing any of these standards, would call for further introspection, according to TRAI.
According to IGBC, certain mandatory national policies in place like decentralisation of data center market, opening of data center parks in other states in accordance with suitable climatic conditions and land availability, and periodic revisions of policies and schemes could address major issues related to their installation and establishments for promoting greener data centers in India.
After the launch of IGBC’s green Data Center Ratings in 2016, a Data Center Committee was established to review and respond to the newer changes effected in the market and to incorporate substantial changes in subsequent revisions. IGBC will work with the Telecommunication Engineering Center (TEC) in encouraging DCs to adopt a greener rating system to enhance better working efficiency.
Indore-based RackBank DataCenters Pvt. Ltd. is aggressively relying on green initiatives to promote sustainability. It sources renewable energy for power hungry IT leads, for instance, solar-enabled green grids and server virtualisation to enhance productivity.
NTT India, a global technology service company launched a new hyperscale data center, NAV1A in Navi Mumbai, by deploying alternative cooling solutions to improve power usage efficiency.
A Hyderabad-based start-up, Banyan Nation, uses IoT solutions to track waste covering free land across the city. For its exemplary contribution, the company was chosen for the Intel and DST Innovate for Digital India Challenge 2.0 award in the year 2017.
Read more: Net-zero buildings in India witness a rise but lack government guidelines, regulations
Banner image: Data center at Virginia Tech. Photo by Christopher Bowns/Flickr.