Tag Archives: Barbara Albert

Barbara’s story and the future of sustainability

I’ve recently been asked to present on the future of sustainability at a panel discussion of the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability. Here is an extract of my opening remarks, which explains why I changed careers and what I see as the future of sustainability.

12 years ago, in 2009, I gave birth to my second child. Leading up to giving birth, I was reflecting on my life and the future life of my two children. I had a cushy job in cybersecurity and risk management and a great career ahead of me. My job was interesting, but something was nagging at me.

It was the knowledge that rising greenhouse gas emissions are changing our planet and that we are destroying the world as I know and love it. I also knew that we could do something about this and that we could change our course, that it wasn’t too late.

If I really wanted this change, then it wasn’t going to be good enough to continue my life as it was and to keep making the problem worse. If I really was a risk manager, then climate change would be the biggest risk of all, and I would have to do something to mitigate this risk.

Once I came to this realisation, the logical conclusion was to divert my brainpower from a job in cybersecurity to a job where I had a positive impact and where my actions changed the world for the better.

I thought long and hard about where my passion lies and where I could have the biggest impact. I love business. I also love sustainability, and so I decided to work at the intersection of the two. I wanted to help business change.

And that’s what I did. I quit my job and went into business.

Unfortunately, in 2009, Australia wasn’t ready for big changes. Electricity generation from solar and wind was expensive. Only a few households had solar installed. The term ‘net zero’ wasn’t widely used around that time. In fact, the first time ‘net zero’ made it into mainstream media was when the Financial Times reported on it towards the end of 2014.

But in 2015, the world changed. Almost 200 countries signed the Paris Agreement that commits us to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees. It was also the year that the global goals were released that put a framework around what a sustainable planet looks like. These two landmark events gave us targets that could be cascaded down from countries to businesses, to individuals.

2015 was also when renewables were getting cheaper, which made them much more attractive to businesses and households. And it was also in that year that our business developed one of the first organisational plans to achieve 100% renewable energy. It was the first time that we had an opportunity to look holistically at a whole business to see how 100% renewables could be achieved.

When we developed that plan, we saw that it was possible to operate with renewable energy and reach net zero emissions while driving financial performance. We were so excited about this revelation that we named our business ‘100% Renewables’ – it encapsulates our vision that in future, all organisations will be powered with renewables and have zero emissions. Since then, we have helped over 100 organisations develop their net zero plan and have grown the business to a national team of net zero specialists.

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an important report. Since industrialisation, we have emitted more than 2,560 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. We have only 400 billion tonnes of emissions left before we exceed a safe climate. So basically, we have already emitted over 85% of all emissions we can ever emit. What we need to do now is make deep cuts to our emissions immediately.

We need to be focusing our minds, behaviour, our effort, our engineering to achieve this huge goal, globally, while simultaneously achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We have built our wealth on burning fossil fuels; now we need to focus on being more sustainable while lifting the developing world out of poverty. The developing world needs to have access to the same opportunities that we have, and we need to help them achieve a better way of life.

For this to happen, everyone needs to act, countries, companies and civil society.

From our work with businesses helping them develop net zero plans and implementing them, we know that achieving net zero emissions has multiple benefits for an organisation. It increases efficiency, climate resilience, employee acquisition and retention, improves reputation, and drives investment in low carbon technology & product innovation.

Responses to climate change can be both big and small. On a grid level, with the development of Renewable Energy Zones, our grid is getting greener. At the same time, rooftop solar has now been installed on more than 3 million households and businesses in Australia. Together, this has a big impact.

Let me give you a great statistic: By the end of 2009, which is when my second child was born, 187MW of solar capacity had been installed in total in Australia, which is now roughly the capacity that is being installed in a single month.

Just recently in South Australia, solar from rooftop and large-scale plants met a bit over 100% of the State’s electricity demand during one morning, and later that same day, rooftop solar alone met almost 90% of the State’s power demand! So even though rooftop solar is individually small and is based on the buying decisions of lots of people, together, they have a big impact.

I get very excited by organisations establishing leadership in net zero emissions, and we decided to share their stories in a podcast. Earlier this year, we released the first episode, which showcased a revolving energy fund in the community whereby one dollar that someone contributes can fund multiple emission reduction opportunities. We have also featured organisations such as NextDC, Lion or Global Fashion Group. We also had one episode on how behaviour change can help achieve net zero. Stories need to be shared so that we can all learn from them and work towards net zero emissions, together.

In my opinion, the future of sustainability is every one of us working together to transform our whole society to achieve zero emissions and to leave no one behind.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their net zero strategies and plans, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to create your strategy, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Exploring carbon neutral and NEXTneutral with Craig Scroggie, CEO NEXTDC [with video]

Information technology is responsible for as many carbon emissions as air travel. Data centres, which house IT infrastructure, are growing at an exponential rate globally, and it is predicted that over the next five years, as much as 20% of all electricity generated will be consumed by the ICT sector.

Australia’s leading data centre provider NEXTDC is tackling this problem head-on: They have been carbon-neutral since 2018 and now offer an industry-leading carbon-neutral service to their customers. I recently had the pleasure to speak with Craig Scroggie, CEO of NEXTDC, about their journey to net-zero.

Craig is a visionary leader who is never satisfied with the status quo and is always on the lookout for performance improvements for his customers, and emissions reductions in NEXTDC’s business. In this article, I’ll share how NEXTDC achieved carbon neutrality, how they are helping their customers achieve their own sustainability goals, and Craig’s three key takeaway messages for other organisations looking to achieve net-zero emissions.

Data centres are power-hungry

Every time you watch a movie on Netflix, make a Zoom or Teams call, search for something on the Internet, post on LinkedIn, watch a funny cat video, or order online, data centres are working away in the background, processing, storing and disseminating the data and applications that enable our modern lifestyle.

In our interview, Craig notes that forecasts from Gartner, IDC and others indicate that every 18 to 24 months, the total amount of information worldwide doubles! It follows then that the amount of information that data centres need to store, back up, protect and share is also doubling.

ICT equipment needs power – and a lot of it. But it’s not just the equipment itself, there is also the power required to cool data centres. Even with advances in digital technology, ICT equipment still generates a lot of heat, which needs to be efficiently removed to ensure the data centre functions optimally.

When you add electricity use from air conditioning to the electricity consumption by the computer equipment itself, you can picture just how much energy is needed. Craig said that the power consumed by data centres globally is between 2% and 3% of all electricity use  and that over the next five years, it is forecast that data centres will consume as much as 20% of all electricity generated.

How NEXTDC achieved carbon neutrality

NEXTDC is dedicated to continuously improving the benchmarks in the industry for data centre operational and sustainability excellence. For Craig, sustainability improvements start at the supply chain, the design, construction and development of data centres, and go all the way through to day-to-day operations.

NEXTDC is making use of the environment rather than use power to drive high-cost cooling and carefully manages airflow to reduce the amount of energy that is required to drive mechanical cooling systems.

They pioneered renewable energy production in the Australian data centre industry with M1 Melbourne’s $1.2 million photovoltaic system, installed eight years ago in 2013. NEXTDC is continuing its rollout of solar on data centre roofs as well as on adjacent buildings. They are also investing in power purchasing agreements, where they act collaboratively with other buyers to fund the development of wind farms and other generation technologies to power their facilities.

NEXTDC also places a high value on water efficiency and recycling of water, as well as recycling the company’s and their customer’s waste materials. As a testament to their operational efficiencies, NEXTDC’s SI Sydney and M1 Melbourne data centres have both been certified as NABERS 5-star rated data centre infrastructure facilities for energy efficiency.

To take responsibility for all relevant greenhouse gas emissions, NEXTDC decided to go carbon neutral, and has been a certified Climate Active organisation since November 2018.

Extending NEXTDC’s carbon neutrality to their customers

The next step in NEXTDC’s sustainability journey was to allow their customers to come together around a shared commitment to sustainability leadership and create a more sustainable future. NEXTDC created a service called NEXTneutral, which enables customers and partners to leverage the carbon offset capability NEXTDC has built for their own corporate program.

It is difficult for data centre customers to know how many carbon emissions are generated by data centre operation that relates to their business. Under NEXTneutral, the carbon emissions produced in a standard data centre rack are pre-calculated. NEXTDC takes care of the procurement of carbon offsets on their customers behalf, which helps their customers quickly and easily neutralise carbon emissions attributable to their portion of data centre electricity use. The carbon offsets fund important ecological projects, which in turn creates real change for the environment and for society.

It’s as easy as choosing to fly carbon neutral – NEXTDC customers can opt-in by going to their service management portal and clicking the NEXTneutral button, which allows them to offset their data centre emissions quickly and efficiently.

How NEXTDC manages physical climate change risks

In the interview, I asked Craig how physical climate risks are affecting NEXTDC. Craig mentioned that physical climate risks such as flooding, bushfires, earthquakes and cyclones are front of mind for data centres, alongside other physical risks that could cause outages and disruptions. He says that when you think about protecting customers infrastructure and building business continuity and resilience into operations, the first action is ensuring that the data centre is always on and always available.

With this in mind, NEXTDC has certified to the highest standard in the world. The Uptime Institute, an independent thought leader and certification body in IT and data centres, awarded NEXTDC the ultimate recognition of the overall design excellence of NEXTDC’s facilities. NEXTDC started with Tier III certification, then moved to Tier IV Certification for Fault Tolerance, which is the highest standard in the world.

Craig Scroggie’s three tips for other organisations moving to net-zero

The opportunity to be the platform of choice for the digital era comes with the responsibility to be stewards of a sustainable future. I asked Craig what advice he would give other organisations moving down the net-zero path. He provided these three takeaway messages:

1 – Just start

Craig says to just start and do something. It doesn’t matter where you start, but when you think about your operations, the sustainability of what you do, and looking for partners that can assist you, you don’t have to spend the next three years thinking about all elements of a sustainability strategy. Start somewhere, look at the areas in your supply chain that you can have the most influence over and choose something to make a difference on.

2 – Get help

The second key takeaway message from Craig is that there are a lot of people out there that would love to help. So if you’re looking to achieve Climate Active certification, you can talk to the relevant stakeholders and the Climate Active government department. If you need assistance with energy efficiency, benchmarking, and certification, talk to the NABERS team. You can speak with independent providers who measure energy efficiency and help you build strategies to reduce the amount of power you consume.

And if you’re a customer who builds IT infrastructure, or a cloud service provider or an enterprise, you can talk to a company like NEXTDC to help you opt into programs that allow you to offset the carbon footprint of your data centre and to also reduce your energy footprint. There are many people that want to make a difference in this area, so reach out to someone and start having a conversation on what action you can take that will make a difference.

3 – Never stop

Don’t try and solve the sustainability challenge all in one go. NEXTDC started out with small strategies, such as wanting to have renewable energy as an input to their business, and over time, they got better at managing airflow and reducing their PUE. Craig says that you need to look at the challenge with a long-term view. Being more sustainable is not something that is ever finished; it will always be a work in progress. Every day, every month, every year, you learn something new, and you continue to build that into your long-range plans.

For NEXTDC, every new sustainability achievement will put them a step closer to their long-range plan of getting to 100% renewable energy and to the long-term goal of 100% of their customer base opting into offsetting their carbon footprint as well.

About NEXTDC Limited

NEXTDC is Australia’s leading data centre-as-a-service company and one of Australia’s fastest-growing technology organisations. NEXTDC data centres and custom co-location solutions are engineered to grow in line with the demands of a business and promote flexibility through solutions that scale, supported by the country’s most dynamic and highly skilled ecosystem of partners, carriers and cloud platforms.

About 100% Renewables

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their net-zero and carbon-neutral pathways. If you need help with developing your climate action plan, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

If you are an organisation leading in climate action and would like to get interviewed in our Driving Net Profit With Zero Emissions show, please get in touch with Barbara.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.