Understanding NABERS for Data Centres: A Shift Towards Sustainable IT

As the global demand for digital services escalates, data centres, the powerhouses of the internet, continue to consume vast amounts of energy. Recognising the urgent need for sustainability in this sector, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) introduced a specific rating system for data centres. By evaluating the energy efficiency of data centres and providing a sustainability rating, NABERS aims to reduce energy consumption, lower costs, and improve environmental performance within the industry.

NABERS: An Overview

NABERS, a government initiative, has been operational in Australia since the late 90s. It was originally designed to measure the energy efficiency, water usage, waste management, and indoor environment quality of buildings and tenancies. With the rise of digital infrastructure and increasing concerns about its environmental impact, NABERS extended its scope in 2013 to include data centres, making it the first tool in the world to offer such a comprehensive rating.

NABERS for Data Centres

NABERS for Data Centres evaluates the environmental performance of data centres across three key categories:

  1. Infrastructure: Rates the energy efficiency of the data centre equipment, including cooling systems, power supplies, and other supporting infrastructure.
  2. IT equipment: Measures the energy usage of servers, storage devices, network equipment, and other IT assets.
  3. Whole facility: Assesses the overall energy performance, including both infrastructure and IT equipment.

Data centres can receive a rating from one to six stars, with six stars indicating market-leading performance. A NABERS assessment can be conducted annually, providing an opportunity for continuous improvement.

The Value of NABERS Ratings

Adopting NABERS for data centres delivers a range of benefits.

Energy Efficiency: By benchmarking performance, NABERS helps identify areas for improvement, driving energy efficiency and potentially delivering significant cost savings.

Environmental Responsibility: Achieving a high NABERS rating demonstrates a commitment to sustainability, enhancing reputation among clients and stakeholders concerned about environmental impact.

The current NABERS Regulatory Compliance requirements for Data Centres are as follows:

  • All data centres must be rated under the NABERS Energy rating system. The NABERS Energy rating is calculated using a formula that takes into account the following factors:
    • The building's energy consumption
    • The building's size
    • The building's age
    • The building's type
    • The building's location

    The formula is as follows: NABERS Energy rating = (measured energy consumption / benchmark energy consumption) x 100

Where:

    • Measured energy consumption is the actual amount of energy consumed by the building in a year.
    • Benchmark energy consumption is the amount of energy that a similar building is expected to consume in a year.

The benchmark energy consumption is determined by NABERS based on a number of factors, including the building's type, size, age, and location.

The NABERS Energy rating scale ranges from 1 star (least efficient) to 5 stars (most efficient). A building with a NABERS Energy rating of 4 or 5 stars is considered to be energy efficient.

  • The minimum NABERS Energy rating for new data centres is 4.5 stars.
  • Data centres must submit an annual energy efficiency report to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).
  • Data centres must comply with all relevant environmental regulations.

The NABERS Energy rating system is a voluntary rating system that measures the energy efficiency of buildings. The rating system is based on a number of factors, including the building's design, construction, operation and maintenance. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the building is.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is responsible for the operation of the national electricity market in Australia. AEMO collects data on energy consumption and publishes reports on energy efficiency.

The environmental regulations that apply to data centres vary from state to state. However, some common environmental regulations that apply to data centres include:

Data centres are a major source of energy consumption in Australia. In 2019, data centres consumed an estimated 17.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, which is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 4.5 million homes. The energy consumption of data centres is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.

The NABERS Regulatory Compliance requirements are designed to help data centres reduce their energy consumption and improve their environmental performance. By complying with these requirements, data centres can help to reduce their environmental impact and make a positive contribution to the sustainability of the Australian electricity market.

Regulatory Compliance: With growing regulations around sustainability, NABERS ratings can help demonstrate compliance and readiness for future requirements.

The Future of NABERS for Data Centres

As the world becomes increasingly digital, the data centre industry will continue to grow. However, with the urgent need to mitigate the impacts of climate change, the focus will increasingly be on building and operating sustainable, energy-efficient data centres.

The NABERS for Data Centres rating system, with its robust methodology and industry-wide recognition, can help data centre operators navigate this changing landscape. It offers a tangible way to measure progress, incentivises improvement, and gives organisations a tool to communicate their commitment to sustainability.

In summary, NABERS for Data Centres is a crucial instrument in the journey towards greener digital infrastructure. It equips organisations with the knowledge and tools to reduce energy consumption, thus helping to build a more sustainable future for the digital world.

Additional Resources

Official NABERS website

Data Center Sustainability Compliance Reporting | Sustainable Data Center 

The Role of Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) in Sustainable Data Centers

Understanding and Calculating Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE) in Data Centers

Data Center Sustainability: Understanding and Calculating Total CO2 Measure

Reducing Data Centers' Carbon Footprint: Strategies and Tools for Sustainability

Integrating Building Automation System and Data Center Infrastructure Management System for Sustainable Data Centers 

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