Executive Interview: Lex Coors on Transforming Europes Data Centers

DateJul 10, 2024

Lex CoorsLex Coors, President of the European Data Centre Association, was recently interviewed for Schneider Electrics Data Center Insights series. Mr. Coors discussed the impact of the European Commissions new Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) on data centers, the rising energy demands driven by AI, and his long-term collaboration withSchneider Electric.

With more than 30 years of experience in the field, Lex Coors has managed the planning and development of more than 70 data centers for companies including Digital Realty and Interxion. His knowledge would guarantee flexible, economical, and energy-efficient infrastructure, establishing benchmarks for the sector. Mr. Coors currently chairs the EUDCA and serves on boards focused on climate-neutral data centers.

Lets start with the European Commissions new Energy Efficiency Directive, EED. How do you think its going to affect the data center landscape in Europe?

The EED aims to create a level playing field. Initially, the industry planned to become climate neutral by 2050, but the EED has pushed this goal to 2030, said Lex Coors. Many of us in the industry are already operating on clean energy, and now we are collectively considering carbon-free energy sources like nuclear and small nuclear devices. The EED also included an open consultation process, which was very engaging and collaborative.

Can you elaborate on the concept of achieving Net Zero?

Net Zero is an asymptotic curve, meaning it can get infinitely close but never truly reach zero because some carbon emissions will always be present. The important thing is the journey towards Net Zero, continuously striving for improvement rather than being discouraged by the impossibility of absolute zero. The EED acknowledges this and encourages us to keep pushing forward despite challenges.

What has been the role of the European Data Centre Association in shaping the EED?

The European Data Centre Association has moved from being an unknown entity to a trusted advisor in policy discussions. As the chair of the policy committee, Ive seen how our industrys position has evolved. The EEDs goals, such as achieving 100% clean energy and 75% by 2027, are significant. Its a dynamic process, and while there are errors to be addressed, the key is to keep moving forward and fixing issues as they arise.

How is AI impacting data center energy requirements?

AI is revolutionizing the data center landscape. The EED includes an efficiency indicator called CERT, but AIs requirements are vastly different. We’re now designing data centers that need Gigawatts of power, with AI driving significant demand. This changes everything, from the physical infrastructure to energy consumption. AI algorithms prioritize profit, keeping us engaged and connected, which in turn increases the load on data centers.

How will AI influence data center design?

AI necessitates new design approaches, often involving liquid cooling to manage high-density computing needs. Our partnership with Schneider Electric has been crucial. Since 2011, we’ve collaborated as equals in R&D labs, developing products that meet our energy efficiency and operational needs. This relationship has evolved from a traditional vendor-customer dynamic to a true partnership, allowing us to innovate effectively.

Can you discuss the importance of this collaboration with Schneider Electric?

Our collaboration with Schneider Electric has been instrumental in driving advancements in data center technology. Working together in R&D labs, weve developed energy-efficient solutions that are now industry standards. The trust, partnership, and shared passion for innovation have been key to our success. This collaborative approach ensures that we can adapt to new challenges, like the growing energy demands of AI, while maintaining efficiency.

What are the next steps for the European data center industry in light of the EED and AI advancements?

The next steps involve continuous improvement and adaptation. We must embrace the EEDs goals, even as we refine its implementation. Simultaneously, we need to innovate in response to AIs demands, integrating advanced cooling solutions and efficient designs. By working collaboratively, both within the industry and with partners like Schneider Electric, we can achieve these objectives and continue to lead in energy efficiency and sustainability.

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