Amsterdam: Amsterdam to impose fines on data centers failing to switch off idle servers

Apr 08, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

In Amsterdam, an argument around data center energy usage has been brewing for some time. Back in 2019, in response to the amounts of energy being used up by data centers, the municipalities of Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer announced a moratorium on new projects. This was eventually lifted, but with the condition that facilities would only be built in specific areas, and have a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.2. At the same time, another condition that was made was that idle servers should be put into a power-saving mode. This mandatory power management, according to authorities, would help to save between 10-15% of energy. The data center industry, however, argued that it wasn't their responsibility, and since then there's been a stalemate.

Yet, after years of back and forth, the Amsterdam authorities recently sprung into action, after the DDA and DigitalNL, refused to sign an agreement related to this, leading to the authorities declaring that fines would be imposed for non-compliance. OD NZKG, the local environmental agency, will be responsible for enforcing the obligation, and according to the agency, it had been trying to reach an agreement with the data center industry for a year before this action was taken. 

In a statement posted by Amsterdam authorities, ​​Alderman Marieke van Doorninck (Spatial Development and Sustainability), said: "Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach a Power Management Sector Agreement that would lead to significant energy savings. I have therefore requested the OD NZKG to enforce unnecessary energy wastage by data centers. In doing so, we are looking for cooperation with the other municipalities and provinces, so that there is a level playing field in the Netherlands."

Again, data center operators have claimed that they are unable to implement this, and only server owners can take action, as operators don't own, control or have knowledge of the IT equipment. Instead, trade bodies have suggested they will pass on the authorities' request to their customers. This proposal has been signed by a number of Dutch data center providers, including both Digital Realty and Equinix.

Commenting on this, Jan-Joris van Dijk, managing director of DDA/DigitalNL member and service provider Bytesnet, said: "We are working on many fronts to facilitate digital innovation in a sustainable way. We see energy savings through power management as a welcome addition to help our customers improve in terms of sustainability." The trade bodies all requested further clarity around the legislation, which is said "must be fundamentally revised." Additionally, the industry outlined that if the authorities went ahead with its proposal to impose fines, the matter would be taken to court. 

According to an inside scoop published by DCD, however, ODNKZG explained the urgency behind the new rules: "IPCC has calculated that the temperature increase in 2030 will be 3 degrees instead of 1.5 degrees as agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement. Over 7% of the Dutch electricity mix consists of Russian natural gas. From the proceeds of this gas, Russia pays for the war in Ukraine. These current events underline the urgency of achieving savings of 10%-15% in the shortest possible time by applying power management. Now that the Sector Agreement has failed to materialize, enforcement, starting with the smaller datacentres, is the only open alternative for the OD NZKG."