Environment
Operational
Sustainability

Equinix’s operational sustainability approach addresses five key areas of impact: energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, Scope 1 emissions and the circular economy. These areas are prioritized across the organization from the top leadership level to regional tiers.

We promote operational efficiency across our sites by providing local support to each data center. This support is facilitated by a growing team that ensures consistency across our global framework. Our initiative to drive efficiency measures within each of the key areas is clearly outlined in our internal Roadmap to 2030, offering a well-defined path for each site.

Energy Efficiency

We strive to maintain our leadership as an energy steward within our industry, benefiting from the world’s most energy-efficient portfolio of data centers. Our Energy Efficiency program focuses on reducing the energy consumption of our infrastructure which can be monitored through a reduction in Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). Additionally, we allocate significant resources to enhance operational efficiency, often funded by our Green Bonds. In 2023, we invested $77.5 million in energy efficiency projects, reducing annual energy consumption by 66,862 MWh.

Power Usage Effectiveness

PUE is a key efficiency metric for our data centers. The closer the PUE is to “1,” the more efficient the data center. We systematically measure PUE, using it to monitor power usage trends and assess the impact of various design and operational decisions on individual facilities over time. For new and expanded sites, we make design decisions to meet ambitious regional PUE targets.

Our new-build IBX data centers are designed to incorporate industry leading equipment and efficient modes of operation. These are optimized to the demands of the local climate. Across our global portfolio, we target an average annual PUE threshold of 1.30 or better. Depending on location and climate considerations, many new sites are designed to operate below 1.30 at full load. Adapting to local conditions tailors our approach, maximizing efficiency in diverse environments and contributing more resilience to global data center infrastructure.

E5 PUE by electricity consumption 2023

In 2022, we internally introduced our Roadmap to 2030 for energy efficiency projects. The roadmap includes a detailed engineering analysis of our sites to generate a comprehensive list of projects. We then assess these projects to identify the most strategic opportunities for energy reduction, targeting a 1.30 PUE average globally. Annually, sites are benchmarked against this target to initiate projects designed to reach the next year’s ideal PUE.

Since 2019, through a combination of energy efficiency investments, best practices and operational discipline, we have reduced our annualized average global PUE from 1.54 to 1.42 despite an expanded portfolio. From 2022 to 2023, we improved our PUE by 8.8%.

Energy Efficiency Center of Excellence

Our Energy Efficiency Center of Excellence (EE CoE) optimizes the efficiency of essential sustainable technologies across our data center portfolio. Initiated in 2020 and now integrated into all sites, the EE CoE program drives progress by requiring each data center to develop and implement a long-term plan for enhanced operational performance.

Each plan is prioritized based on our four-phase framework. We provide comprehensive resources to help sites implement their five-year plan, starting with our organization, which includes an assigned Program Manager and Engineering Support Lead per country or sub-region. These roles develop business cases, secure funding and manage project delivery. Our EE CoE executes strategic direction, operation and design best practices for our four-phase framework. This includes educational information on energy basics, efficiency programs, overall progress measurement and identification of opportunities for improvement. The guide provides a practical, actionable approach to capitalize on opportunities for improvement and investments in efficiency.

In 2022, we became the first colocation data center operator to expand operating temperature ranges to align with ASHRAE A1 Allowable (A1A) standards. In 2023, we piloted the transition at various facilities globally, bringing them closer to 80°F (27°C) standard operating temperature. This is up from a typical industry average of around 72°F (22°C). Additionally, we implemented updates for new customer and site contracts to include SLAs incorporating A1A standards. We continue to focus on optimizing existing facilities through a global readiness assessment and transition playbook. This includes long-term plans, such as a Roadmap to 2030 for each site, ensuring a coordinated and seamless transition. Employee and customer safety remains a priority, thus sites have internal heat stress guidelines in place and collaborate with the Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) team.

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Four-phase Framework

We’ve developed a four-phase programmatic approach, driven by our EE CoE, to consistently improve PUE. Introduced in 2020, the framework identifies four phases that systematically guide our efforts to maximize efficiencies in our facilities:

  • Optimizing airflow
  • Optimizing and upgrading data hall cooling controls
  • Optimizing cooling distribution
  • Optimizing cooling generation

Each phase includes KPIs to assess supply and return temperatures for both water and air. The KPIs ensure data consistency across sites and enable us to measure progress, accounting for inherent variations among data centers. We use this four-phase framework to guide operational improvement and provide the necessary tools to quantify and substantiate our efficiency initiatives.

The most robust business case can be made for each site to proceed through each phase sequentially, but real-world challenges can arise. For example, when Phase 4 becomes a priority, we proactively work to future-proof the design investment, ensuring seamless alignment with Phases 1, 2 and 3 once they are implemented. This approach highlights our adaptability and commitment to sustaining efficiency. Moving into 2024, we will continue to find and develop opportunities to implement these projects where possible.

Case Study

Location: LD6 in London, United Kingdom

PHASE 1

Revolutionizing Airflow Efficiency

This project, completed in 2016, achieved significant energy efficiency through cold aisle containment retrofits (Phase 1) and by overhauling the fan control system (Phase 2). The containment reduces the amount of cooling air required for circulation in the data hall, while the fan speeds are now intelligently grouped in zones, reducing overall fan power consumption. Through the management of fan speeds and the adoption of innovative cooling technologies, this data center separates supply and return air. This results in a stable and energy efficient environment for data processing and reduces energy consumption.

Equinix has been widely retrofitting cold and hot aisle containment systems across its existing data center portfolio as part of Phase 1. As of 2023, we have roughly 70% coverage globally, an increase of approximately 20% from 2019. Operationally, we have improved communication and policy enforcement with our customers to ensure adherence to our airflow management policies. This keeps cabinets well sealed to prevent wasted cooling air and hot air recirculation, a key enabler to Phase 2 projects.
New facilities have been fully equipped with hot aisle containment since 2015.

PHASE 2

Raising Cold Aisle Temperatures in Legacy IBX sites

Legacy data centers are historically kept cooler than newer facilities because the older facilities have less-efficient temperature controls and less separation of hot and cold air streams (see Phase 1). We updated the systems at these sites to increase the average temperature in the cold aisles (which align with customer IT equipment air intakes) to around 77°F, compared to the previous 60°F. By doing this, the project not only follows guidelines set by our internal Global Steering Committee, but also saves energy.

Across Equinix, wherever we have installed containment systems (Phase 1), Operations teams have been gradually increasing cold aisle temperatures. This allows us to further increase chilled water temperatures (Phase 3) and increase our free cooling capacity.

Location: DC5 in Washington, D.C., United States of America

Location: SG2 and SG3 in Singapore

PHASE 3

Cooling Tower Electric Fan Retrofits

We utilized strategic retrofits to optimize cooling distribution by upgrading cooling tower fans. By replacing the original fans—which were powered by less-efficient alternating current motors—with advanced direct shaft-driven fans using electric motors, we achieved an energy savings of 38%–50% on the cooling tower fans.

Other Phase 3 projects include raising chilled water temperatures, converting constant flow chilled water systems to variable flow systems, improving chiller plant manager controls strategies to maximize free cooling, and optimizing humidity control systems.

PHASE 4

Nozzle Technology in
Chiller Operations

To optimize cooling and water distribution systems, we introduced new nozzle technology in chiller operations. We focused on eliminating air recycling-circulation within air cooled chillers without compromising airflow or increasing motor current. The key improvement lies in the nozzle’s ability to increase air velocity at discharge by over 40%, effectively mitigating hot air recirculation within the chillers. The resulting benefits include a reduction in electricity consumption, cooler air intake temperatures, increased chiller cooling capacity, resilience to high ambient temperatures and a decreased reliance on heat transfer-based systems.

At this stage there is also a large focus on plant replacement, and this primarily includes air cooled chillers, cooling towers and computer room air handling (CRAH) or computer room air conditioner (CRAC) units. This phase aims to undertake early plant replacement based on energy efficiency improvements, which are maximized by Phases 1, 2 and 3, and work in-sync with our A1A program.

Location: PA3 in Paris, France

Sustainable Water Management

In the face of climate change impacts like water scarcity, it is crucial for us to use water resources responsibly. Among our data centers, 40% use water for cooling purposes. We understand the significant pressures placed on local water providers to ensure a resilient drinking water supply for their community. In the design phase of new data centers, we explore opportunities to minimize water use before identifying alternative water sources. At sites that use water, we continue to evaluate the local climate conditions and water context. We then use learnings to help us optimize water and energy resources for our cooling systems.

Water and energy systems are intricately linked, forming what is known as the water-energy nexus. Each stage of the industrial water cycle, including distribution, heating and wastewater collection and treatment, involves energy consumption. Similarly, the generation of energy necessitates water. As a result, maintaining a delicate balance between water and energy use is a challenge we continuously evaluate, especially in locations with higher water risk.

Our primary use of water is for cooling data centers. Servers within data centers not only require energy but also generate heat. Without a cooling mechanism, infrastructure can overheat, leading to equipment failure. To address this, we use either traditional air cooling or evaporative cooling systems. Air cooling requires more energy compared to evaporative cooling, while evaporative cooling consumes more water. As part of our strategy to navigate these trade-offs between water use and energy use, we identify opportunities, based on level of water stress, to use either air or water cooling. Currently, we use water cooling at less than half of all sites.

We are committed to advancing water resource management through investments in technology and improved tracking systems. In 2023, we expanded our improved metering of monthly water uses at various locations. We plan to continue to expand our metering efforts in 2024.

Withdrew

5,970

megaliters of water

Discharged

2,390

megaliters of water

Consumed

3,580

megaliters of water

Non-potable

25%

of water came from non-potable sources

To improve our understanding of water stress concerns in areas where we operate, we leveraged the insights of the Water Resource Institute (WRI) Aqueduct 4.0 tool. In recent years, we have strengthened our ability to precisely measure water use baselines and monitor yearly advancements at the facility level. For these sites, we use dashboards integrated into our management systems to monitor Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE), establish water usage reduction goals, and identify opportunities for global facility improvements.

We also identified and adopted an additional tool to create more comprehensive water risk assessments for all water-cooled sites. This tool will be implemented at the beginning of 2024, providing more insight to shape our water strategy in both Design and Operations.

Case Study

Guiding Cooling System Choices in Design Through Water Risk Assessment

In 2023, we conducted several in-depth water risk assessments in water stressed areas. In one particularly high water-stress metropolitan area, our assessment operationalized our design plan. Our learnings of the local water context led us to transition from water cooling to air cooling. All new-build projects in high water stress locations are now required to minimize or eliminate water usage by eliminating the use of open cooling towers, using air cooling or using alternative water supplies such as recycled water or non-potable water.

As part of our commitment to minimizing our water use, we proactively explore strategies such as aiming for higher Cycles of Concentration (CoC), especially in water-stressed areas. CoC represent a measure of water treatment in cooling systems, assessing the concentration of dissolved minerals in recirculating water compared to water that is added to compensate for evaporation losses. As water evaporates, naturally present minerals from the municipal water supply become more concentrated, negatively impacting efficiency and equipment lifespan. Managing optimal CoC is essential to minimize water use while balancing the prevention of scaling issues with efficient heat transfer in industrial settings

Water Usage Effectiveness

Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) is another key metric for data centers. This efficiency metric shows the relationship between water used for evaporative cooling and energy consumption of IT equipment. The closer WUE is to “0,” the more efficient the data center is in using water for cooling IT equipment. Starting with 2023, Equinix will report on its WUE annually. Moreover, our belief in transparency led us to disclose the WUE for our entire portfolio as well as the WUE exclusively for our data centers where water is used for cooling. By providing both WUE metrics, stakeholders can compare our performance against peers that disclose their WUE according to either of these methodologies.

In 2023, Our Data Centers Achieved

WUE

1.07

Entire global data center portfolio

WUE

1.63

Data centers with evaporative cooling

Circular Economy and Waste Management

We maintain compliance with ISO 14001 in managing our waste, including hazardous waste and electronic waste. We are in the process of certifying all sites to the standard and aim to achieve this by 2027.

We are committed to circularity, increasing the second life of devices and submitting to publicly available audits every three years as part of the Climate Neutral Data Center Pact. We successfully passed our first audit in 2023. We also partner with our peers to scale waste efforts across the industry. In 2023, 37% of Equinix-owned servers leaving our business were given a second useful life through refurbishment and remarketing.

Within our own company, we integrate circularity through several means, including remarketing and refurbishing used electronic equipment before recycling. We are also exploring more component reuse in our whitespace installations, such as cabinets, to repurpose them for other uses outside our data centers.

Our Global Responsible Electronics Disposal (RED) aims to minimize the environmental impact of electronic waste (e-waste) while safeguarding sensitive data, thereby contributing to a healthier planet and safer digital environments.

Compliance and Management System Standards

Aligning our operations with global management standards helps us protect the environment and our employees while meeting stakeholder expectations. Equinix immediately pursues ISO certification for newly constructed sites.

In 2023, we globalized our parent certificate for Environmental (ISO 14001), Energy (ISO 50001) and Health and Safety (ISO 45001). EMEA sites are certified to all three standards. In 2023, we certified all sites in Singapore, Japan and Australia to ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 and those in California, Washington, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas and Chile to ISO 50001. In 2024, we will expand ISO 50001 and ISO 14001 certification to Korea, Hong Kong and China and ISO 50001 to the remaining locations in the AMER region.

Equinix collaborates with peers and industry partners to support lower carbon options for data center operators and their suppliers. For 16 years, Equinix has participated in the EU Code of Conduct on Data Centre Energy Efficiency. This initiative, led by the European Union’s Joint Research Center, helps data center operators increase their energy efficiency. Thirty-five of Equinix’s EMEA data centers report Utility and IT kWh requirements, establishing Equinix as a Corporate Participant of the center. Equinix is working to increase this reporting participation in EMEA with additional sites in process.