How EdgeConneX balances AI capacity demands with sustainability

How EdgeConneX balances AI capacity demands with sustainability

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EdgeConneX CEO Randy Brouckman

Capacity catches up with EdgeConneX CEO Randy Brouckman to learn more about the company's focus on customers, people and planet.

With over 14 years of experience as CEO of data centre operator EdgeConneX, Randy Brouckman has seen the industry grow and evolve. 

His latest focus is on meeting 2030 renewable targets, setting up the company to capitalise on AI sustainably and raising awareness for how data centres can be a force for good, all while maintaining EdgeConneX mantra of “building where customers want to go at scale”. 

What sustainability goals/metrics has EdgeConneX set in different markets? How do these vary depending on where you are building and what type of data centre is being built? Or are they the same regardless of location/workloads hosted?

Our company has a simple mantra: Focus on our customers; our people, and our planet and the rest will take care of itself. To that end, we have a global goal of becoming a carbon, waste, and water-neutral data centre provider, operating a data centre platform powered by 100% renewable energy by 2030. 

How we achieve those goals in each market might vary in terms of the methods or technologies, but whether it’s an edge data centre or a hyperscale campus we are committed to the same goals across our entire global platform. To that end, I’m proud that our efforts were recently recognised by Structure Research as the leading data centre provider for sustainability transparency and efficiency.

How are you balancing meeting the growing demand for AI services with these sustainability targets? 

The significant growth in demand for data centre capacity to support AI means that providers will need to find both new locations that have the scalable power to support this demand and also find new technologies and renewable energy sources to augment or replace the grid as a source of power.

That is why in markets like India, where we have partnered with Adani, we can bring gigawatts of data centre capacity powered entirely by renewable energy. 

It’s a unique and entirely differentiated value proposition. It’s also why we are looking to augment grid power in other markets with alternative, renewable energy sources and, if needed, with on-site power generation at our data centre campuses. 

Lastly, we are not just enabling AI, but we are also using AI to access carbon free energy and optimising our power sourcing and utilisation at our sites. 

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EdgeConneX has raised $7B in sustainability linked financing to date. What sustainability targets have been set as part of these deals? 

To build the hundreds of megawatts needed to support cloud and AI requirements for our customers, billions of dollars of capital is necessary to fund this investment into our global platform. 

Reporting on things like our aggregate PUE across our global platform, renewable energy usage, our health and safety results for both employees and contractors, and zero waste certifications are all key metrics. 

In addition, the UN’s Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi’s) Validation Team has classified EdgeConneX Scope 1 and 2 target ambition as in line with a 1.5°C trajectory, currently the most ambitious designation available through the SBTi process for companies within the ICT sector. 

All these metrics and results are used to garner sustainability-linked financing. As a result, we have closed over $7 billion of sustainability-linked financings over the last 2 years. Billions of dollars of capital are necessary to fund the investment in our global platform to build the hundreds of megawatts needed to support our customers' cloud and AI requirements. 

With AI, is it getting harder to “Build where customers want to go at scale”? Are requirements changing for customers in terms of where they do want to build? Or are they forced to adapt to a lack of power and land?

When building at scale, power availability has become the critical variable. Cost always matters, the regulatory environment and tax incentives also matter, and so does the availability of skilled and technical staffing to build and operate data centres.

As a result, we’ll see new markets emerge with hundreds of megawatts under development because they have low-cost land, scalable power, and tax incentives attracting hyperscale data centre operators.

Because the large language models being developed as part of these new AI factories are not latency sensitive, there is increased flexibility in where some new sites will emerge. This will result in new markets being developed.

Do data centre’s have a problem with their perception from the public? What is EdgeConneX doing to address this?

I do think there’s a misperception in the public about data centres. Yes, the data centre industry consumes a lot of power. However, often the industry tries to respond with a lot of data centre metrics that many can’t relate to or understand.

Instead, we need to do a better job to explain all the positive impacts that result from the Cloud and AI applications that are enabled inside data centres. Hardly any person or business is not impacted by the benefits of the cloud and AI. 

We need to share how farmers can use the cloud to improve the yields and harvests of their crops; and then achieve faster time to market at lower costs and reduce the environmental impact of using AI. 

Similarly, how pharmaceutical companies can bring new drugs faster to market, at lower prices like they did during Covid. How logistics companies can ship more goods and materials around the world faster and using less fuel and resources. 

Students and schools, patients and hospitals, workers and manufacturers, agencies and governments, and the list goes on how data centres enable the digital economies of the world to thrive, allowing people, companies and governments to do a lot more with far less. 

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