New energy rating system for datacentres

Proposed National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) for datacentres will provide consumer-style six-star energy rating system for infrastructure and equipment.
Written by Tim Lohman, Contributor

The Australian government is mulling the release a new national energy rating system aimed at providing clearer consumer advice on the energy efficiency of datacentres.

The system, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS), is adopted from the building industry and uses a six-star rating system similar to that given to televisions and whitegoods, to rate IT equipment, datacentre infrastructure, or both.

According to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency's Shane Holt, the system, which was soft launched in February, is slated to begin on a voluntary basis in 2016, with a view to becoming mandatory two years later.

Speaking to an industry session on energy efficiency, Holt said the aim of the system is not to penalise datacentre operators with poor energy use, but to better inform datacentre users.

"We are not looking to set a minimum standard [of energy efficiency]," he said. "Rather, for those enterprises who are interested in attracting business to their facility, [they] should disclose what their energy rating is so that apples can be compared to apples."

The agency intends to work with IT via the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA), and has already begun a consultation process with expressions of interest (EOI) and requests for quote (RFQ) from datacentre providers.

According to Holt, the scheme will begin on a voluntary basis from 2016, with the potential for regulation making the scheme mandatory two years later, depending on industry take-up of NABERS.

"We are talking about 2018; we are talking about potentially disclosure for those enterprise datacentres — the people who are out there marketing, 'come to my datacentre because it is good and we'll show you how good it is using the NABERS tool'," he said.

"We would like to start that as a voluntary scheme, and like most voluntary schemes, those that are very good would embrace it more quickly than those that aren't, then we would potentially look at regulation."

A spokesperson at NextDC said that the datacentre provider welcomes the scheme, but emphasised that it is preferable for it to remain voluntary in order to minimise any administrative burdens.

"We also believe that it is in the best interests of datacentres to participate in the scheme without it needing to be made mandatory," the spokesperson said.

In NextDC's view, NABERS is essential in further promoting effective sustainable datacentre design, and in ensuring that power usage effectiveness (PUE), as measured under the NABERS rating tool, is applied as a consistent standard of measurement.

"Currently, the way PUE is measured varies widely, meaning the ratings published are not comparable," the spokesperson said. "Under the NABERS scheme, the ratings will be based on set measured readings over the course of a year, and all of those readings will be used in calculating a PUE.

"Expectantly, this will prompt companies to devise better long-term strategies around energy efficiency, ultimately leading to greater efficiency, lower carbon emissions, and better control of costs to end users."

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