In the wake of COP26 we take a look at the impact of data centres on the environment, and the measures that providers are taking to be more responsible.
Data centres use energy, we all know that. Currently, the IT industry contributes between 2% and 6% of total global greenhouse emissions. You might think that isn’t too bad, but it’s on a par with the aviation industry and as digital transformation accelerates in light of the Covid19 pandemic, the demand for data centres grows too. In fact, energy demand for data centres is roughly doubling every four years.
So what is the industry doing about it?
While some data centre providers have been assessing their energy efficiencies and taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints for quite some time, others are behind the curve and it won’t be long before regulation overrules them and they will be forced to make a change.
In February 2020 the EU announced that data centres and telecommunications organisations can, and should be carbon neutral by 2030, while the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow produced new agreements and pledges from 196 countries to continue cutting emissions in an effort to keep the global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This means that if providers aren’t already doing so, they need to act - now.
Some data centre providers will cite the use of renewable energy to power their facilities, but pay close attention. If these are virtual power purchase agreements this means that renewable energy is being put into the grid on their behalf. Meanwhile, they continue to use the local grids. Think of it as a form of offsetting. There is more that can be done. And some of the tech giants are embracing innovative technologies to make a change.
Microsoft, for example, plans to reduce water use in its data centres by 95% by 2024. To achieve this, the firm is adopting a new approach to temperature management at its data centres, which will reduce the amount of water used in its evaporative cooled data centres globally, by an estimated 5.7 Billion litres annually. Microsoft’s goal is to be carbon negative by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050.
At Teledata, we're striving to reduce our carbon footprint and to date have invested £1.5 Million into a 2MW smart energy battery storage system with integrated variable voltage optimisation. This enables us to store electricity from the national grid at times of low demand and discharge it during the most beneficial periods, acting as a reserve during peak tariff times. The system also offers integrated variable voltage optimisation to deliver a stabilised voltage, thus boosting the resilience of the facility by improving the shelf life of equipment, while reducing unnecessary energy waste and optimising the incoming power supply. These measures reduced our carbon output by over 500 tonnes per year and at present, we are the only colocation provider in the UK to have implemented these technologies.
In short, data centres must be part of the solution for broad decarbonisation. Organisations may think - we’ve put stuff in the cloud, we’re helping the planet - but unless their data centre provider is taking bold steps towards carbon neutrality, they could in fact be part of the problem, not part of the solution.
To find out more about what Teledata is doing as a data centre provider to reduce carbon emissions, take a look at our website, here.