What is ISO 50001?

ISO 50001 (International Organization for Standardization 50001) is a voluntary standard for designing, implementing and maintaining an energy management system. ISO 50001 was developed by an ISO technical committee and published in 2011.

ISO 50001, which uses a vendor- and technology-agnostic approach to enterprise energy management, was developed in response to a request from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. The standard is intended to help organizations develop and implement an energy management system.

According the ISO website, an energy management system is a framework for implementing technical and management strategies that will significantly cut energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions over time. System components include the creation of an energy policy, objectives for improving the efficient use of energy, a timeline with target dates for meeting objectives and an action plan that specifies exactly how the organization’s objectives will be met.

ISO 50001 uses the Plan, Do, Check, Act framework, which is also supported by the US Department of Energy. During the planning phase, the organization sets objectives and targets, using current energy efficiency measurements to establish a baseline. During the do phase, the organization implements actions to improve energy efficiency. During the check phase, the organization measures and evaluates their energy performance and compares the results to their baseline. During the act phase, the organization decides what changes need to be made next to improve energy performance. The cycle then continuously repeats with a new planning phase.

With continuous improvement, ISO 50001 will help an organization make better use of their existing energy-consuming assets, create transparency and improve communication about energy consumption, promote energy management best practices and help prioritize the implementation of energy-efficient technology.

The ISO does not issue certifications for ISO 50001 compliance but certifications can be granted by an accredited third-party agency. It is recommended that organization interested in acquiring ISO 50001 certification contact and interview several accredited agencies before committing to one. A list of accredited evaluators is available on the ISO website. Certification is valid for three years.

Energy use is a major concern for mega data centers

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has praised technology giants Google, Facebook and Apple for their use of renewable energy to power datacentres but has blamed AWS and Twitter for not caring enough about the source of the energy they use to power their facilities.

In its latest report Clickin Clean, on big datacentre operators’ environmental performance, Greenpeace recognised the efforts Apple, Google, eBay and Facebook have made towards improving energy efficiency in their IT operations.

But organisation also singled out Amazon Web Services and Twitter for a lack of transparency in their energy and carbon reporting, as well as for their limited use of sustainable energy to power datacentres.

The report describes Google, Facebook, Apple and to a certain degree even Yahoo as “green Internet innovators” because of their commitment to renewable energy.

Facebook powers its IT infrastructure with 100% renewable energy sources, while Google is using wind energy in its facilities as part of its carbon neutrality commitment.

Google became the first North American company to obtain ISO 50001 certification for its energy management systems in its datacentre facilities.

Meanwhile, Apple has acquired a hydroelectric power facility near its datacentre in Oregon to further reinforce its commitment to sustainable energy sources for its IT facilities.

Apple also uses solar, geothermal and wind energy, alongside Google and Facebook. Apple’s environmental report showed that only 2% of its carbon footprint was directly related to IT facilities.

But other notable datacentre operators, such as Amazon, Digital Realty and Twitter, are “stuck in dirty energy past”, Greenpeace said.

Cloud provider AWS is focusing purely on improvements in efficiency and has taken few or no steps to switch to renewables, the organisation said. AWS primarily uses coal as its main source of energy.

Greenpeace billed Amazon as the “least transparent of any company we evaluated” in terms of energy consumption. AWS’s estimated use of green energy is 15%, the report said. This compares to 34% of green energy used by Google to run its IT.

In its report, Greenpeace placed Microsoft, Equinox, IBM and Telecity in the “middle” as datacentre providers “taking steps toward a greener internet, but not leading the way”.

In 2012, Microsoft adopted a “Carbon Neutral by 2013” plan to reduce its carbon footprint. But the Azure cloud provider still has “significant weaknesses” according to Greenpeace.

“Microsoft has thus far relied heavily on buying Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and carbon offsets, creating the appearance on paper of being clean but not altering its status quo supply of dirty electricity,” the report read.

A New York Times report revealed that Microsoft wasted thousands of pounds worth of electricity at its Redmond Quincy datacentre to avoid a $210,000 (£129,000) penalty for underuse from its energy provider. The software giant ran its diesel backup generators in excess of what was required to run its datacentres.

“Companies, such as Microsoft and Amazon, are not pulling their full weight to become sustainable, despite having massive potential,” Andrew Hatton, Greenpeace UK’s head of IT, previously told Computer Weekly.

But Microsoft’s recent long-term purchase agreement for wind power, near its Texas datacentre, indicates it is ready to use green energy for its datacentres.

Meanwhile, Equinix, which has more than 100 large datacentre facilities worldwide, collectively consumed 1,830GWh of electricity in 2012, the equivalent to 162,000 average homes.

Greenpeace evaluated other cloud providers including Salesforce, Rackspace, Telecity, Oracle, and HP for their commitment towards offsetting their carbon footprint, but it said these companies need to do more.

Cloud providers Rackspace and Salesforce have made a commitment to use 100% renewable energy in their facilities. Salesforce also said a preference to use collocation providers that use renewable energy.

It is demonstrating that policy by building its first UK datacentre in collaboration with NTT Europe, which will be 100% renewably powered.

The Greenpeace Clicking Clean, published this month, is a follow up on its two previous reports: How Clean Is Your Cloud? (2012) and How Dirty Is Your Data? (2011).

The campaign group argues that datacentre owners should care more about the source of the energy.

It comes at a time when datacentres are responsible for about 2.5% of Europe’s energy use, and this figure is rising by 10-15% every year. Between 2011 and 2012 alone, power requirements grew by 63% globally to 38 gigawatts (GW), up from 24GW in 2011.

The Greenpeace report also supports the RenewIT project – a three-year, €3.6m (£2.9m)-research project funded by the European Commission. The tools developed by RenewIT should help more datacentres understand the economics of using renewable energy and to drive greater adoption, according to the campaign group.

As well as the RenewIT project, the European Union (EU) has awarded €2.9m (£2.4m) to a consortium of companies and researchers that will work to improve the energy efficiency of urban datacentres.

Google certifies its data centers to ISO 50001

Google has become the first North American company to obtain ISO 50001 certification for its energy management systems in several datacentre facilities in the US.

The International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 50001 certification supports organisations in all sectors to use energy more efficiently. It provides a framework of requirements for companies, such as developing an energy efficiency policy, measuring the performance of energy-efficient systems and planning continual energy management strategies.

Google developed a comprehensive energy management system (EnMS) for use in its corporate datacentre as well six other US facilities in Oklahoma, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

“Our facilities use 50% less energy than most other datacentres and we’re constantly pushing ourselves to be even more efficient with the energy we use,” said Joe Kava, Google’s vice-president for datacentres.

ISO 50001 is built around a “plan-do-check-act” concept, Kava said on Google’s Green blog. “This concept ensures we have a strong energy policy, implement sound processes that strengthen our EnMS, build a robust auditing program, continually monitor, assess and respond to our energy efficiency results.”

Based on the requirements in the standard, Google developed itsEnMS that is appropriate for its energy culture and the company’s datacentre managers continuously challenge energy performance goals, improve datacentre designs for power optimisation, and develop robust monitoring systems, he explained.

Among the measures Google takes to cut its power use are building custom servers, installing temperature control systems, using “free-cooling” techniques such as outside air or reused water for cooling, measuring PUE and redesigning how power is distributed to reduce unnecessary energy loss.

Google uses renewable energy resources and recycles all the IT equipment that is out of use in its datacentres. It also recently entered into an agreement with the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) to use 48MW of wind energy to power its Oklahoma datacentre.

“We plan to expand our current certification [50001] to include our European datacentres in the coming months,” Kava said. Google has three datacentres in Europe, in Ireland, Belgium and Finland.

Previously, the search engine giant’s US and European datacentres have received voluntary ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 energy performance certifications.

ISO 50001 was launched in 2011 at the Geneva International Conference Centre (CICG) in Switzerland. “Energy is no longer a technical issue, but a management issue with an impact on the bottom line and the time to address the issue is now,” ISO’s secretary general Rob Steele said at its launch.