With the BFE Institute for Energy and Environment, Data Center Group has a leading company in energy efficiency and sustainability consulting at its side. The BFE and Data Center Group complement each other perfectly and offer real added value, especially to data center operators. Why does it just fit? To answer this question, we invited Michael Wörster, Senior Consultant at Data Center Group, and Till Boeder, Head of Department at BFE, for a joint interview.
Thank you very much for your time. You also have a good personal contact. Please describe in your own words the secret of this successful partnership.
Till Boeder (BFE): "We have the necessary expertise in energy efficiency and take care of special sustainability issues. At the same time, we always keep an eye on the costs, entirely in the interest of our customers. Until now, we have considered data centers as an entire energy unit. Through the cooperation with Data Center Group, we get a much deeper insight into a data center. This allows us to save energy and avoid CO2 emissions in advance. How does the power get to the data center? That's our interface with Data Center Group. Which connection is best suited? Everything that happens in the data center, that's where Data Center Group is top professional."
Michael Wörster (DC Group): "As a developer, Data Center Group takes a holistic view of data centers in terms of security, availability and energy supply. Together with BFE, we offer our customers real added value, because now we can already decrease costs and CO2 emissions when it comes to the energy connection. For me, the cooperation with BFE means an expansion of competence for the DCG customers."
Till Boeder (BFE): "I can agree with that. Especially when planning large data centers on greenfield sites, we provide Data Center Group with much more knowledge about the adjusting screws to the upstream areas. This is primarily about energy connection and distribution, which are firmly in the hands of the network operators. Here's an example: When it comes to energy consumption, we can have a closer look together with Data Center Group to evaluate whether there are opportunities for privileged treatment for our customers - key words: voltage level, network charges or 7,000-h- regulation. If a large data center meets certain requirements, the network operator rewards this by paying back the data center operator. Thanks to the support of Data Center Group, we can therefore optimize downstream operating costs in advance. For our customers, that means they don't have to worry about it later."
Michael Wörster (DC Group): "Perhaps – to make an addition to this – let’s have a look at a specific example of how operators of a large data center can keep costs down afterwards through intelligent planning in advance. Let's choose energy connection. Depending on the possibilities of the network operators, a data center can be connected via different voltage levels. Thanks to BFE, we can now calculate the costs incurred in advance. The lower the voltage level, the more network charges must be paid. Reason: The technical effort and losses on the part of the network operators are greater. Therefore, in some cases, it makes sense to choose a higher voltage level, since the technical effort is then lower and thus the network charges are also lower. In addition, the issue of privileging mentioned by Till Boeder then also plays a role, which opens further savings potential. Of course, we don't just look at the cost side, but always keep an eye on operational reliability as well. Depending on customer requirements, we develop the energy concepts based on DIN EN 50600 or, in the case of large cloud providers, so-called hyperscalers, also according to the requirements of the U.S. Uptime Institute. We then usually approach the network operators and tell them what they should supply. In the best case, two cables from two substations. With BFE, we are expanding Data Center Group's service portfolio by including other topics in the areas of energy efficiency and sustainability consulting. BFE also allows us to get to the other end of the cable and get more accurate information about downstream operating costs."
Brief interim question: What technical developments will we see soon? Where can further optimization be made?
Till Boeder (BFE): "Large data centers in particular produce a lot of heat, most of which has so far gone unused. There is a lot of room for enhancement in the use of waste heat. Together with Data Center Group, we are involved in the 'Bytes 2 Heat' initiative of DENEFF, the German Energy Efficiency Initiative. The initiative focuses, e. g., on ways of harnessing waste heat in other environments and thus saving other resources. I am convinced that there will be clear requirements from the legislator about waste heat utilization. If a company then fails to meet certain sustainability requirements, it will lose customers. Up to now, the issue of emissions has often been determined by price and not by specifications. However, since legal regulations will soon be established, it makes sense for data center operators to address the issue today."
Michael Wörster (DC Group): "When planning a data center, we respond to many requirements that are in the room. But there are also many grown data centers that can save a lot of energy and emissions. Unfortunately, hardly anyone on the operator side has the knowledge of what optimizations are lying dormant there. That's why we're pleased to be working with BFE, because their main business is decarbonization. With an operating time of 8,760 hours per year, a data center is a company's major energy consumer. Therefore, there is also enormous potential for savings here.
We are also part of Peer DC, an initiative of the German Federal Environment Agency. There, we are working with other partners to establish a standardized register for data centers. On the one hand, this creates the basis for future statutory regulations, which are already being planned, and on the other hand, it makes it easier for us to define new data centers and adapted achievable requirements. In the data center environment, management systems will be introduced in the future to record and control energy and sustainability. Much is not yet decided, but it will come soon. We are prepared."
Do companies have a single point of contact for data center operations?
Till Boeder (BFE): "Of course we would like that. However, the topics of energy and sustainability have become too diverse for only one person to cover them. In practice, this means that we usually contact the energy department about the data centers. They then refer us to the security or IT officer. Then we first must justify our intentions. Due to management systems that are now in place, there are also energy officers as well as a person who looks after the issue of sustainability in the company. Sometimes the finance director also joins the table during the initial meeting because of certain EU regulations.
Michael Wörster (DC Group): "Sometimes it really is not that easy to get the right people around the table. However, Data Center Group is involved in various committees, for example in the Innovative Data Center Association, and works closely with the Deggendorf University of Applied Sciences. The goal is to teach students in the IT department the basics of technical building equipment and the interaction in a data center. It is precisely through cooperation with the universities that we hope to achieve a better basic understanding among the next generation of responsible players. It would be desirable if future IT students would not only gather know how about bits and bytes, but also knew more about electrons and water molecules."
Finally, a question for both of you: What excites you about each other's business partners?
Till Boeder (BFE): "With Data Center Group, we as BFE have in-house expertise that is second to none. As BFE and as part of MVV Enamic, we are the experts when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability. When it comes to the details of data centers, we contact our colleagues at Data Center Group. The cooperation works collegially, it is 'us'."
Michael Wörster (DC Group): "I don't want to make it easy for myself, but I can't put it any better than Till has just done. After all, we are also part of MVV Enamic and use short distances when it comes to exchanging expertise. From my point of view, the collegiality is a real enrichment. I have pinched myself more than once because I could hardly believe how smoothly this cooperation with the people at BFE works. In terms of our competencies, we have the same understanding. This is how we create added value for our customers together. Thanks for that, Till."
Thank you very much for this informative interview.
The BFE Institute for Energy and Environment supports companies and businesses in the areas of climate management, energy management and energy efficiency, e. g. with audits, subsidies as well as the conception and implementation of efficiency measures. Around 70 engineers, technicians and business economists bring their expertise to the table, business economists contribute their expertise. In more than 17,000 projects, they have helped companies of all sizes from various industries to save billions of kilowatt hours and tens of tons of CO2. BFE Institut für Energie und Umwelt GmbH, headquartered in Mühlhausen near Heidelberg and with locations in Berlin and Hamburg was founded in 1979 and has been part of the Mannheim-based MVV Energie AG group of companies since 2000 (www.mvv.de).
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