Australian Government Sets New Standards for Data Centre Efficiency

In a significant move towards sustainability and energy efficiency, the Australian Federal Government is poised to tighten the energy efficiency regulations for data centres hosting federal agency workloads. Starting mid-2025, these changes will mandate all data centre service providers to the government to achieve a five-star rating from the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS).

Historically, the five-star NABERS requirement was limited to data centre providers listed on the new data centre panel established by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) data centre panel in May. This directive will expand beyond the panel from July 1, 2025, encompassing all facilities, irrespective of whether they are contracted from external companies or operated by the government.

The strategy delineates that existing data centres operated by any entity must secure a NABERS Energy for Data Centres infrastructure rating. Nonetheless, it acknowledges potential limitations by stating,

“If the facility cannot be improved to meet the five-star rating, the entity should optimise the data centre’s energy efficiency in its setup and operation.”

This initiative is part of the government's broader Net Zero in Government Operations strategy, aiming to reduce the carbon footprint across various sectors, including energy supply, buildings, procurement, vehicles, travel, and ICT. The inclusion of a stringent NABERS rating requirement is expected to enhance greenhouse gas reporting from data centre suppliers, encouraging more providers to adopt NABERS-based ratings.

The government's vigilance over this transition will extend from January 2024 to July 2026, monitoring the adoption of NABERS ratings among data centre providers. The DTA's establishment of a new Data Centre Panel signifies a robust step towards sustainable ICT procurement, reflecting the government's commitment to achieving net zero emissions.

The Data Centre Panel, replacing its 2014 predecessor, incorporates comprehensive measures for providers to manage and diminish greenhouse gas emissions. Providers are expected to adhere to the Government’s ICT Sustainability Plan for data centres, comply with emission thresholds under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGER Act), utilize accredited Greenpower from renewable sources, maintain a 5-star NABERS rating or an equivalent environmental rating, and aspire towards a Power Use Efficiency (PUE) of less than 1.4.

As government expands its use of data centres to support the rapid digital transformation of our services and systems, these measures will ensure that providers are supporting our commitment to achieving ‘net zero’.” - Wayne Poels, the General Manager for Digital Investment Advice and Sourcing

The technical specifications for the new panel have been meticulously designed to foster sustainable design. They incorporate robotics, automation, and smart sensors for facility monitoring alongside innovative temperature control methods. These requirements are complemented by mandatory reporting obligations, ensuring providers' commitment to sustainability metrics such as environment ratings, power consumption, and renewable power sourcing.

Moreover, the new Data Centre Panel aligns with the Australian Government’s Hosting Certification Framework and the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018, reinforcing data security and sovereignty standards. Integrating the Data Centre Panel into the platform simplifies the procurement process, facilitating more accessible and efficient engagements between the government and data centre providers.

As Australia moves forward with its Data and Digital Government Strategy, the enhanced focus on sustainable ICT operations, including the stringent NABERS rating requirement for data centres, marks a pivotal stride towards reducing the environmental impact of governmental operations and spearheading a sustainable future.

Additional Resources

Net Zero in Government Operations strategy

Government’s ICT Sustainability Plan for data centres

Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) data centre panel

Australian Government’s Hosting Certification Framework

National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGER Act)

What is PUE and how is it Calculated?

The Dawn of Sustainable Data Centers in the EU: A Closer Look at the New Rating Scheme


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