The data center sector’s growing focus on sustainability was on display in this week’s EPA Green Power Leadership Awards, which honored Microsoft, Equinix and QTS Realty Trust.

The annual awards recognize America’s leading users of renewable energy. The EPA announced the award today at the 2019 Renewable Energy Markets Conference in San Diego, Calif. The program recognizes companies that procure green power from a utility green power product, a power purchase agreement, or a renewable energy certificate (REC) product. This year’s 12 recipients are using approximately 11.7 billion kWh of green power, enough to power nearly 1.1 million average American homes for a year.

Microsoft and Equinix are repeat winners from 2019. But the 2020 awards provide a higher profile for the sustainability work by QTS, which has aggressively boosted its use of renewable energy sources, including sophisticated strategies in the energy markets.

“QTS is proud to be recognized by the EPA, one of the world’s leading agencies focused on sustainability whose mission is to protect human health and the environment,” said Chad Williams, Chief Executive Officer, QTS Realty Trust. “We remain focused on leading the industry in environmental sustainability initiatives as evidenced by our documented commitment to achieving 100% renewable energy use across all of our data centers by 2025.”

The 2020 Winners

Microsoft won the top award for Sustained Excellence in Green Power Use, as the EPA cited the scale of its green power commitment, focus on innovation, and sustained commitment to direct project engagement.

Microsoft is one of the world’s largest operators of hyperscale data centers and used 100 percent green power for the fifth consecutive year across its U.S. operations, and increased its internal carbon fee in 2020 to help achieve its goal to be carbon negative by 2030. Microsoft has been a Green Power Partner since 2012 and is currently #2 on EPA’s National Top 100 list and #2 on the Top 30 Tech and Telecom quarterly Partner rankings (Google is first in both categories).

In recent months, Microsoft has reinforced that commitment with its announcement that it intends to eliminate the use of diesel fuel in its emergency backup generators by 2030, and has successfully tested the use of hydrogen fuel cells to power its data center servers.

Colocation provider Equinix, Inc. received the 2020 Green Power Partner of the Year award. The company operates more than 210 data centers across 56 metros in 26 countries spanning five continents.

Equinix was recognized for using more than 2.3 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power each year, covering more than 90 percent of its electricity load worldwide. Equinix added more than 884 billion kWh of green power between the end of 2017 and the end of 2019. Nearly half of the company’s 2019 green power growth from long-term contracts, which delivered new wind power to the grid in the middle of the United States. The balance of Equinix’s green power also supported several other types of purchases, including Green-e wind renewable energy certificates (RECs) as well as community choice aggregation and utility green tariff programs in California and Colorado.

Demonstrating leadership in green power use by being one of the first data center companies to utilize financial power purchase agreements, helping to address the volatility of electricity costs while also retaining REC attributes.

The EPA also commended Equinix for developing customized green power reports that empower its customers to understand and attest to their green energy use and carbon footprint from collocating at Equinix as part of their own sustainability reporting efforts. Equinix is a founding board member of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance as well as an educator at its events and recently participated in policy proceedings in Virginia on opening green power access to other customers. Equinix is currently #4 on EPA’s National Top 100 list and #4 on the Top 30 Tech and Telecom quarterly Partner rankings.

Inside the rows of server cabinets at the QTS Data Center in Irving, Texas, which was the focus of an award-winning green energy project. (Photo: QTS Data Centers)

Inside the rows of server cabinets at the QTS Data Center in Irving, Texas, which was the focus of an award-winning green energy project. (Photo: QTS Data Centers)

QTS Realty Trust provides data center solutions, with more than 6 million square feet of data centers throughout North America. The company joined the EPA’s Green Power Partnership in 2018 and is currently #12 on EPA’s Top 30 Tech and Telecom quarterly partner rankings.

QTS Realty Trust is receiving a 2020 Direct Project Engagement award  for a project in which QTS worked with Citi’s global commodities unit to purchase a portion of the power from a financed project. This project’s structure supports QTS Realty Trust’s renewable electricity objectives while funding new projects, reducing market risk, and improving renewable electricity costs for other buyers supported by this procurement strategy. The deal is part of  a larger commitment in which QTS has boosted its renewable electricity procurement to more than 412 million kWh today over the course of three years.

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