Operational Sustainability

Equinix’s holistic operational sustainability approach has evolved beyond energy to include water and resource circularity. We provide local support to each data center to promote the increasing ambition of our operational efficiency objectives, facilitated by an expanding support team that ensures consistency of our global framework.

To improve operational efficiency at our IBX facilities, we introduced five key priorities defined in 2022: energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, Scope 1 emissions and circular economy. Within each objective, we established specific initiatives to track progress across our facilities to create a path to achieve our 2030 climate goals from an operational perspective.

Energy Efficiency

Our Energy Efficiency program concentrates on reducing energy consumption and monitoring PUE as the key metric. We have developed a four-phase programmatic approach driven by our Energy Efficiency Centre of Excellence to deliver a consistent set of actions toward PUE improvement.

Equinix dedicates substantial resources to drive our operational efficiency, often supported by the proceeds of our Green Bonds. In 2022, we invested a total of $45M toward energy efficiency projects, resulting in associated annual energy consumption reduction of approximately 69,000 MWh.

Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)

At Equinix, we consider PUE a key efficiency metric for our data centers. We design for aggressive regional targets for all new sites and expansions, and measure the PUE of all our data centers globally.

PUE helps track power usage trends in an individual facility over time and measures the effects of different design and operational decisions. The closer to “1” that the PUE is, the more energy efficient the building is in delivering its services.

In our 2020 Green Finance Framework, we committed to investing in buildings with a design average annual PUE threshold of 1.45 or better, exceeding industry benchmarks.

Current design average PUE goals range from 1.20–1.40 and represent an average incremental efficiency gain of 8–10%. Depending on location and climate, many new sites are designed to below 1.20 at full load.

We work to achieve our PUE goals through energy efficiency investments, best practices and operational discipline, alongside maximizing environmental and ambient conditions where possible to lower our PUE results further. Since 2019, Equinix has reduced our annualized average global PUE from 1.54 to 1.46, even as we have expanded our portfolio. From 2021 to 2022, PUE improved 5.5%, which represents a substantial improvement.

In 2022, Equinix became the first operator of colocation data centers to announce its commitment to optimizing its overall power use by increasing operating temperature ranges within its data centers. As a part of this new efficiency initiative, Equinix expects to operate its facilities closer to 27°C (80°F), aligning operating limits across its global data center portfolio with the globally accepted boundaries of the A1A standards from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

“This initiative, once deployed, has the potential to significantly benefit these businesses as they seek to reduce the Scope 3 carbon emissions in their supply chain to meet their overall climate targets. It marks an important step in our comprehensive sustainability program and our climate-neutral commitment.” – Jon Lin, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Data Center Services

Line chart of annualized average power usage effectiveness over time from 2019 to 2022 by region and globally. Chart focuses on global PUE, which reduced from 1.54 in 2019, to 1.51 in 2020, to 1.48 in 2021, and 1.46 in 2022.

Energy Efficiency Center of Excellence

The Energy Efficiency Center of Excellence (EE CoE) maximizes the impact of key sustainable technologies across our data center portfolio by taking a long-term, uniform approach and supporting our local Operations teams to achieve ambitious Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) targets within our IBX data centers.

The EE CoE program, first launched in 2020 and now established in all our sites, drives progress at the local level by requiring each IBX to create a five-year plan to improve its operational performance. The plan is evaluated against four established KPIs assessing supply and return temperatures for water and air. These KPIs provide consistency in data and enable us to gauge progress despite the inherent variances among data centers. The five-year plan framework is supplemented with information to help calculate energy savings, create a business case and obtain project funding.

Energy Efficiency Center of Excellence

The approach is laid out within a robust toolbox and is shared with all IBX sites. The toolbox provides a step-by-step guide to channeling investment and capturing the opportunities that arise during business-as-usual plant replacement and other infrastructure upgrade projects. The guide includes educational information on energy basics, efficiency programs, and how to measure against consistently applied KPIs, among other resources.

To maximize efficiencies in our facilities, we created a four-phase framework to improving energy efficiency in data centers:

  • Optimizing airflow
  • Optimizing and upgrading data hall cooling controls
  • Optimizing cooling distribution
  • Optimizing cooling generation
Graphic of Energy Efficiency Center of Excellence approach. Phase 1: Optimize air containment - maximizing the separation of supply and return air. Example: Installing hot or cold aisle containment; installing blanking panels; removing other air leakages. Phase 2: Optimize cooling units in data hall - optimizing the set points and control systems of the data hall cooling units. Example: Adjusting supply air to the actual requirements. Phase 3: Optimize cooling distribution - optimizing the water distribution system to the required situation. Example: Adjusting water flow and pressure. Phase 4: Optimize cooling generation - optimizing the design of the cooling generation plant. Example: adding free cooling capacity.

Equinix initiated the first phase of the framework in 2022. Optimizing airflow is a significant first step in increasing energy efficiency, as it ensures our equipment is properly placed to allow for separation between hot and cold air streams. We have several tools that make it easy for staff and customers to ensure airflow is fully optimized in data centers. Employees use an application developed by Equinix called “Airtight” that makes it easy to report issues regarding airflow within data centers. At each location, our critical facilities engineers also conduct walk-throughs to search for potential areas that may not meet compliance standards. Our engineers use Airtight to create a ticket that notifies our customers of the issue and provides advice on how to resolve it. Should the customer prefer Equinix to resolve the issue on their behalf, our SmartHands® team provides this service and closes the ticket. In 2022, approximately 13,000 tickets were created, and our teams worked diligently to resolve them as quickly as possible with around 85% of them closed.

We also continued developing our digital dashboards and further integrating them into our business practices. The dashboards support our energy efficiency reward structure that incentivizes engineers, management and staff based on progress at IBX locations.

Led and supported by the EE CoE, 45 IBX locations in APAC implemented more than 100 energy efficiency initiatives. These initiatives included installing motion-activated and LED lighting, adding more efficient chillers and improving airflow management throughout facilities. In addition to cost savings, the team’s efforts resulted in approximately 18,000 MWh of energy consumption savings and an overall PUE reduction of 8% in the region. The supporting toolbox also enjoyed significant uptake, with 2,000 users accessing the resource during Q4 2022.

Please visit the Energy Efficiency CoE e-book for more details on our four-phase process.

Sustainable Water Management

Water is a valuable resource in data center operations, where it is commonly used as a cooling agent. Improving water management practices is becoming increasingly important in adapting to the consequences of climate change. While energy usage remains the largest contributor to Equinix’s environmental impact, we are also committed to improving our management of water resources through investments in new technology and enhanced tracking systems. We currently track monthly water usage at several locations and intend to expand this program in 2023. The balance between water and energy usage is one challenge that Equinix continues to evaluate, especially with careful consideration for locations with higher water risk. To support this, our internal data information systems will track monthly and annual water stress data by conducting water risk assessments to inform the best approach at each data center. While we consciously consider water stress levels, we are actively exploring and employing methods to minimize the impact of water consumption, such as using gray water to minimize the processing before consumption or using rainwater capture where possible. To learn more about our physical climate risk assessments, review our TCFD page.

Over the past several years, we built our capacity to accurately measure our water usage baselines and track yearly progress at the facility level. As part of our data optimization process in 2022, we improved our water usage effectiveness (WUE) management systems for the approximately 40% of our sites that use water for cooling. Newly created dashboards track progress on WUE in finer detail, providing greater visibility for our team that will help to set targeted water consumption reduction goals in the future and identify improvements for our facilities globally.

Accurate data collection is one of three pillars in our sustainable water management plan, along with determining and implementing optimization. In 2023, we will improve the frequency and quality of our water metering systems, digitally integrating them into our management systems. Installing these smart water meters will also allow us to analyze our water usage patterns and identify actions to improve the overall efficiency of the system, thus further reducing water usage.

Logo for Aqueduct: Measuring and Mapping Water Risk tool

Waste Management

We maintain compliance with ISO 14001 in managing our waste, including hazardous waste and electronic waste.

As part of driving circularity at Equinix, we are partnering with our peers in the EU Climate Neutral Data Centre Operator Pact to scale waste efforts across the industry. Within our own teams, we integrate circularity through several means, including responsible electronic disposal which prioritizes remarketing and refurbishment before responsible recycling.

In 2023, we will investigate the possibility of reusing more of the components in our whitespace installations, such as cabinets, and exploring other options to repurpose them for other uses outside our IBX data centers.

Low-Carbon Fuels

The Sustainability and Global Operations teams began piloting near- and medium-term fuel replacement strategies for diesel generators and technologies that will help reduce our Scope 1 emissions. Of note, hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), a bio-based liquid fuel produced using a variety of organic feedstocks, emerged as a leading contender to immediately reduce Equinix’s Scope 1 emissions without requiring a complex on-site generation shift away from generators. Compared to diesel, HVO can reduce GHG emissions by up to 90%.

In 2022, Equinix trialed HVO in SV11 and in our UK sites in London and Manchester, with a positive outcome. The results of the testing confirm the effectiveness of HVO as a drop-in fuel for diesel generator sets. In comparing the performance criteria between diesel and HVO fuel, we found no significant effects on general performance.

As part of our commitment to reach our science-based target and climate-neutral goal, Equinix is committed to:

  • Utilizing HVO-capable generators in all new build installations and retrofits where available.
  • Piloting the use of HVO at existing sites and more broadly implementing this technology as available.
  • Assessing the supply chain for HVO and other alternatives and striving to ensure our purchases of HVO or other diesel alternatives avoid and mitigate deforestation.
An image of a sunflower

Healthy and Sustainable Offices

Equinix teams across the globe are advancing sustainability in our workplace and culture.