Grip on numbers; Figures highlighted; Numbers…

While the world is in the grip of the coro­n­avirus, the need for infor­ma­tion is increas­ing. Reli­able infor­ma­tion, acces­si­ble and clearly artic­u­lated. Where facts are sepa­rated from rumours. For data centers and users, it may now be time to inform the outside world as well as possi­ble about how the use and consump­tion of elec­tric­ity is devel­op­ing. The indus­try tells what actions the govern­ment is taking, but also where the shoe pinches. Just like in the current corona crisis, measur­ing rele­vant data is crucial to bring about change. Without rele­vant data we know nothing, we cannot make adjust­ments and the indus­try is not accountable.

Data centers are indis­pens­able in this day and age and they have already made enor­mous strides with regard to energy effi­ciency. Now is also the time to involve data center users in the next improve­ment. After all, almost all data and tools are present, such as the data in the BIOS, ILO and UE. We are all capable of this. The parties must all do it together. The govern­ment, data centers, ICT, users, suppli­ers and soft­ware suppli­ers. In the LEAP pilot of the Amster­dam Economic Board, Green IT Amster­dam, RVO NLdig­i­tal and other parties, we at Certios and WcoolIT have taken a first step in conduct­ing research with the govern­ment and end users into the use of a new measure­ment method and the savings poten­tial. by enabling the correct power manage­ment settings of servers. In an almost optimal setting, even one of the LEAP partic­i­pants achieved a 7% energy saving. What can be achieved in a non-optimal setting? 10%? Or maybe 70%, we’ll see. But the main result of the pilot, as far as I’m concerned, is the aware­ness of the poten­tial for saving elec­tric­ity and the exist­ing over­ca­pac­ity of the hardware.

Reliable information

When I talk about reli­able infor­ma­tion, I also mean that it should be under­stand­able to every­one. The infor­ma­tion now avail­able on the left and right does not seem to match. At least I can’t make connec­tions. In fact, they all seem to stand on their own. Many appar­ently measure with differ­ent sizes. I can under­stand that from differ­ent perspec­tives and inter­ests, some outcomes come out better. However, there should still be some corre­la­tion in the data.

Chart 1
Chart 1

In a previ­ous article I have used various ‘quotes’. Many equa­tions are used to illus­trate the current and future “consump­tion” of data centers, but do we under­stand these equa­tions? I will compare the data (info­graphic chart 1) of Energie Beheer Neder­land (EBN) with the quotes (info­graphic chart 2) of the Dutch Data­cen­ter Asso­ci­a­tion.

Chart 2
Chart 2

EBN is 100 percent owned by the Dutch state. They imple­ment parts of the climate and energy policy for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate. They are one of the driving forces behind the energy tran­si­tion in the Nether­lands. EBN has in-depth knowl­edge of the Dutch subsur­face and plays a key role in connect­ing private and public parties in the energy sector. My assump­tion is that these figures give a true and fair view of the total energy consump­tion in the Netherlands.

Dutch Data Center Asso­ci­a­tion (DDA) is the trade asso­ci­a­tion for data centers in the Nether­lands, the foun­da­tion of the digital economy. They now connect 90% of the market-leading data centers in the Nether­lands. They artic­u­late indus­try views on regu­la­tory and policy issues and work in as broad a coali­tion as possi­ble. DDA has three focus areas: Energy & Sustain­abil­ity, Educa­tion & Employ­ment and Digital Economy & Mainport.

The equations


  • My assump­tion is that the data centers fall under the Indus­try cate­gory. EBN reports a consump­tion of 1,115 PJ by the Indus­try, of which 11% is Elec­tric­ity, 123.4 PJ or 34.4 TWh.
  • The renew­able energy used is 41 PJ or 11.4 TWh
  • Total final consump­tion NL is 106 TWh


  • Dutch data centers have a combined capac­ity of 1,503 MW, the total annual consump­tion is 1,503 X 8,760 hours = 13.2 TWh
  • Green power is 80% of consumed power = 10.5 TWh
  • Resid­ual heat: An average house­hold of 3 people consumes 3.5 MWh, or 0.0000035 TWh. If heat accounts for about 70% of the energy consump­tion of house­holds and accord­ing to DDA 1 million house­holds can use resid­ual heat from data centers, then that need is 70% x 1,000,000 x 0,000,003.5 = 2.45 TWh.


When I compare the infor­ma­tion from EBN and DDA, I arrive at the follow­ing insights:

  • 38.4% of elec­tric­ity consumed by indus­try goes through data center (13.2/34.4)
  • 12.4% of elec­tric­ity consump­tion in NL goes through data centers (13.2/106)
  • 92.1% of the renew­able energy consumed goes through Data Centers (10.5/11.4)
  • 18.5% of the energy consumed by DC can be used for heating house­holds (2.45/13.2)

Those are figures again: Data centers and their users consume 38.4% of the total Indus­try and thus 12.4% of all elec­tric­ity in the Nether­lands. In addi­tion, 92.1% of all renew­able energy is consumed by data centers. This leaves little for the rest of the Netherlands…

These are figures for the whole of the Nether­lands. What about the figures for Amsterdam?

Are these figures correct and are you allowed to make these compar­isons? I don’t know, it raises a lot of ques­tions for me. We believe we know that ICT and the asso­ci­ated energy consump­tion will continue to rise. Shouldn’t we then accel­er­ate the gener­a­tion of more renew­able energy and can the elec­tric­ity network handle it? Shouldn’t we be using the resid­ual heat more quickly? Inter­est­ing ques­tions, but what if these figures are not correct? A devi­a­tion of 1% is already a lot of electricity.Interesting ques­tions, but what if these figures are not correct?

Energy management

But are we really doing energy manage­ment? I don’t think so. We know that server capac­ity and perfor­mance has increased much more than energy consump­tion, but we also see that energy consump­tion itself has not decreased. In any case, in the numbers we see that every­one expects IT energy consump­tion to continue to grow, albeit not in the speed of IT perfor­mance growth, but still… How much does it keep increas­ing? I don’t know. What do you think? In any case, the climate discus­sion has accel­er­ated things and put energy manage­ment (higher) on the agenda.

Energy manage­ment is not possi­ble without knowing how much energy data centers use, without knowl­edge of the size of the under­ly­ing energy contracts, how much energy is gener­ated by wind, solar, alter­na­tive, etc. Energy effi­ciency and sustain­abil­ity are buzz­words and good for the image, but it is time to back it up with figures, with reli­able ratios, coor­di­nated and certi­fied by inde­pen­dent institutions.

Transparency helps

How do we achieve this? In any case, by doing it together, together with the govern­ment, data centers and inter­est groups for data centers and ICT.

What is the solu­tion then? I would like to see a covenant between the parties, which stip­u­lates that monthly reports are made to the govern­ment. Server owners report the data and provide insight into the energy consump­tion and behav­ior of the servers. Rele­vant data has been present at the heart of IT equip­ment for many years. BIOS, ILO and other systems keep track of this data. Data centers report their total energy consump­tion and the energy consump­tion consumed by the servers on a monthly basis. On the basis of this infor­ma­tion, the govern­ment can then make regu­la­tions, in consul­ta­tion with the inter­est group. Data centers and ICT users can use the infor­ma­tion for account­abil­ity to their stake­hold­ers and to society.

Ulti­mately, we must be able to test objec­tives against actual figures and analyze the impact of measures on the basis of reli­able figures. Other­wise it will remain a hobby with numbers and beau­ti­ful words without tangi­ble results.

In my view, the author­i­ties and compa­nies should move beyond their primary inter­ests and take joint respon­si­bil­ity for shaping the next step in the matu­rity of this industry.

Trans­parency helps. The begin­ning is here…

Marco Verzijl

Marco Verzijl

Marco is ruim 15 jaar actief in de datacenterwereld. Van 2005 t/m 2012 bij KyotoCooling bij de ontwikkeling van het Kyotowiel. In 2013 heeft Marco samen met Mees Lodder WCooliT opgericht. WCooliT levert producten en diensten voor het efficiënte datacenter, o.a. op het gebied van fysieke scheiding, turn-key modulair datacenter en 24x7-monitoring.


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