Govt data centre suppliers will need five-star energy rating

Brandon How

New data centre facilities servicing the federal government will be expected to have a top energy rating by mid-2025, as part of the Australian Public Service net-zero by 2030 target.

The minimum mark will be five stars from the NABERS Energy for Data Centres rating, which is based on the actual operational emissions and energy consumption data, or similar.

A rating of one to six stars is awarded by the Australian ratings system based on power usage effectiveness, with six stars indicating the best operational energy efficiency and lowest environmental impact.

The data centre requirement will apply to all new data centre facilities serving the federal government, whether they be on the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) formed panel or sourced outside of that arrangement.

data centre

In May the DTA established a new Data Centre Panel that included “strengthened measures for data centre providers to identify, manage and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Inclusion on that panel already requires a five-star NABERS Energy rating.

The new green minimum for all government servicing data centres will apply that minimum rating widely. It is among the actions outlined in the Net Zero in Government Operations Strategy, which have been grouped into six themes including procurement and ICT. An action plan was also released alongside the strategy on Tuesday.

Existing data centres must obtain the minimum rating as well, but if the facility “cannot be improved to meet the five-star rating, the entity should optimise the data centre’s energy efficiency in its setup and operation”.

The aim is also to increase access to emissions reporting, with the measure of success to be an “increase in suppliers who are utilising the NABERS based rating on a baseline of January 2024 and measured against July 2026”.

Canberra Data Centres, the federal government’s largest provider for data centre services, has been appealing to the Clean Energy Regulator to not disclose its greenhouse gas emissions data under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting scheme. The scheme requires large emitters to report scope one and scope two emissions and energy production and consumption data> CDC has argued it doing so publicly would risk trade secrets about its operations.

Under the new Net Zero in Government Operations Strategy, the government will also integrate circular economy principles into its procurement practices, to encourage refurbishment, repair, reuse, and recycling, including of ICT equipment. The reports notes that rapid innovation in ICT means there is high product turnover. An environmentally Sustainable Procurement policy will be published by 2025.

Government agencies will also be expected to develop a long-term emissions reduction plan by the end of Jun 2024. It must at least include a net-zero commitment, priority areas, current emissions and an emissions reduction target, and an implementation plan.

According to the APS Net Zero Emissions Reporting Framework, initial public reporting of emissions covered “scope one emissions, or those emissions from sources owned or controlled by government, and scope two emissions, or those emissions related to purchased energy, and some scope three emissions associated with domestic air travel and the extraction, production and transport of electricity and energy”.

Other targets include obtaining 100 per cent of the Commonwealth government’s electricity from renewable sources and to target 75 per cent of new passenger vehicles orders be for low or no emissions vehicles.

Minister for Finance and for the Public Service Katy Gallagher said “there’s no reason why the Commonwealth Government can’t set the benchmark for major workplaces around the nation”.

“This strategy is all about the Government leading by example by providing a credible path on how Government will reach net zero within its operations by 2030,” Ms Gallagher said.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen echoed a similar sentiment and added that “reducing public sector emissions shows how serious the government is about combatting the impacts of climate change, while reaping the economic opportunities from affordable renewable energy”.

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