Data Centers in all forms could account for 12% of all the electricity created in the UK, and with the demand for data increasing daily with the advancements of technology, this figure is only set to rise unless Data Centers take action.
Every time you watch your favourite Netflix series, upload an Instagram post, or search for a recipe online you are using data, and whilst you might not realise this at the time, that minor act has an impact on the environment. Data centers are the epicenter for all of the digital transactions taking place all over the world and they put a huge strain on the planet.
Data centers consume electricity - there is no getting away from it - with facilities in the UK alone (including Enterprise on-prem, co-lo, edge, and hyperscale) potentially consuming 12% of all the electricity generated in the UK according to the UK Energy Research Centre. With the demand for data on the seemingly unstoppable rise and an estimated 1030 – 8000 TWh of energy to be consumed by the digital economy by 2030, many believe it’s unsustainable for data centers to continue operating at their current status.
Though the growing digital industry presents many opportunities for data centers, they also face adversity as we shift to a more sustainable world. If data centers are to continue operating viably, they will need to look at ways they can operate more efficiently and negate the adverse impacts they (and we) are having on the planet. It’s with this in mind that the EU commission has called for all data centers to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Carbon neutrality means not adding new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere. Where emissions continue, they must be offset by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere, for example through carbon capture and reforestation that is supported by carbon credit schemes. These examples are often referred to as carbon sinks as they absorb more carbon than they produce.
Carbon Neutral vs Carbon Zero
Carbon neutrality differs from Carbon Zero, whilst both require a company to reduce and balance their carbon footprint, carbon zero means that no carbon has been released into the atmosphere to begin with that requires offsetting.
What About Carbon Negative?
Organisations could go one step further and become ‘Carbon Negative’. Microsoft, for example, announced at the beginning of 2020 that by the year 2030, they plan to become carbon negative which means they will aim to remove more C02 from the atmosphere that they are putting in. But as an even more ambitious pledge, they plan to remove all the carbon that has been emitted by Microsoft since it was founded 46 years ago, by the year 2050.
Whilst Carbon Zero or Carbon Negative is an ideal approach, carbon-neutral is much more achievable in the short term and adopted widely by governments across the globe. In December 2019, the EU launched the European Green Deal, with the aspiration of Europe becoming the first continent to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Going one step further and bearing in mind the energy consumption of current data centers, the Climate Neutral Data Center Pact, a self-regulatory initiative, has been introduced. The Climate Neutral Data Center Pact, backed by leading industry organisations such as Google, Microsoft, and NTT, is a pledge from all industry leaders who have agreed to become carbon neutral by 2030 with metrics to be certified by an independent auditor. The pact covers 5 areas; Prove energy efficiency with measurable targets; purchase 100% carbon-free energy; water conservation; Reuse, repair and recycle servers; look for ways to recycle heat.
Carbon neutrality shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise for a data center, it can have real benefits for the business, including significant cost savings by increasing efficiency, opportunities to become a more appealing option against competitors due to offering greener services, enhancing your credentials by demonstrating that you are working towards sustainability and most importantly means that you are helping to tackle climate change.
Whilst it is easy for an organisation to “claim” they are carbon neutral; in the future, they will need to provide evidence that they genuinely are. Data centers will need to pass rigorous assessments in order be classed as Carbon Neutral. BSI has introduced PAS 2060, currently, the only recognised international standard for organisations to demonstrate carbon neutrality.
In order for data centers to work towards carbon neutrality, we’ve compiled six basic steps that all data center leaders should be taking regardless of their current environments when looking to create a more sustainable future.
When it comes to introducing zero-carbon, sustainable, and/or green technology into the data center, it seems like a no-brainer for data canter leaders. In addition to the integral sustainability benefits and clear cost saving potential for the immediate term, lower energy and water usage in the future will exponentially recoup additional cost savings as energy prices increase. New technologies boast significant benefits including 95% reductions in cooling costs or 30% increases in hardware life, however costs are only one part of the objective in the Race to Zero.
Before any improvements can be made, it is vital for data center leaders to understand their current environment. With legacy estates blended with newer, more efficient kits, it can often lead to inefficiencies and poor performance, particularly as pressure on data center increases and demand for data grows. Newer, more efficient technologies are continually introduced, and the old ones just no longer compare in the race to zero.
Leaders should be looking at all of this in granular detail in order to have a full understanding of their estates and recognise where improvements really need to me made.
Businesses should be setting benchmarks in order to record any progress that they are making in the race to zero. Existing tools such as Data Center Infrastructure Management Software allows leaders to track accurate energy and power consumptions, giving them full visibility of where changes need to be made.
Alongside benchmarks, it is encouraged those organisations create a roadmap for their journey on the race to zero, with achievable signposts, steps, and phases in which improvements can be implemented.
Next, using all the information gathered in the previous steps, organisations will need to implement all of the changes as per the roadmap that has been set out. Gaia Edge not only works with your organisation throughout all of these steps, but will use all of the targets, projects and objectives set previously to identify possible locations, technologies, and providers to help your organisation to implement the new changes.
Following the basic steps and working with Gaia Edge to do so, organisations can achieve or at least be one step closer to creating a carbon-neutral data center and contributing to a brighter more sustainable future. In this final step, it is vital that organisation’s keep track of any progress that is made, and that carbon reductions and cost savings are recorded. Gaia Edge will work with your organisation on all aspects of reporting and will help inform internal and external stakeholders of the positive impacts that have been made in the race to zero.
If you’re looking for guidance on how your data center can achieve carbon neutrality, get in touch with Gaia Edge today where our team of experienced, highly knowledgeable experts will be able to help with your transformation into a greener, sustainable data center.
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