The Carbon Neutral Data Centre Pact, and how the industry is delivering on its promise

Sep 17, 2021

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The Carbon Neutral Data Centre Pact, and how the industry is delivering on its promise

In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law requiring the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. However, the data centre industry has made its own pledge, led by companies such as Google and Equinix, to achieve climate neutrality by 2030.

The pledge, known as The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, comes in the wake of increased scrutiny on the ‘mushrooming’ growth of energy intensive data centres and its associated carbon footprint. To illustrate, a report by the Irish Academy of Engineering (IAE) has estimated data centre expansion will require almost €9bn in new energy infrastructure and add at least 1.5m tonnes to Ireland’s carbon emissions by 2030 – a 13% spike on current electricity sector emissions.

As a result, the industry’s environmental regulations are fast evolving. Major European cloud and data centre operators, as well as smaller and national providers, have committed to becoming climate neutral by 2030.

Why are data centres energy and resource intensive?

It is no secret that data centres require vast amounts of energy. They operate 24/7 with racks of servers and cooling systems that all need huge amounts of resource. Several reports have placed data centres as accounting for approximately 2% of the world’s energy consumption, which is almost equivalent to the aviation industry.

Whilst this sounds alarming, the industry is responding by developing carbon neutral data centres. A great example is a campus in the southwestern tip of Iceland which runs almost entirely on geothermal and hydroelectric power.

What does a net zero carbon data centre look like?

The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact outlines the following:

Increase and measure energy efficiency

Data centres and server rooms must meet a high standard for energy efficiency, demonstrated through ambitious power use effectiveness (PUE) targets. For European operators committed to the Pact this has been specified as an annual PUE target of 1.3 for new data centres operating at full capacity in cool climates by 2025, and 1.4 in warm climates. Existing data centres will achieve these same targets by January 1, 2030.

Clean energy

Carbon neutral data centres should be powered by 100% renewable energy. The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact states that data centre electricity demand will be matched by 75% renewable energy or hourly carbon-free energy by December 31, 2025, and 100% by December 31, 2030.

Water efficiency

Data centres use vast amounts of water for computer cooling. However, sustainable data centres must reduce this to minimum levels by achieving aggressive water conservation targets. The water usage effectiveness (WUE) metric may vary depending on the data centre design specification.

A circular economy

Data centre operators must apply circular economy practices to repair and recycle servers, as well as reusing waste heat where possible.

Circular energy system

This aspect highlights the energy conservation opportunity presented for the reuse of data centre heat. Data centre operators can “explore possibilities to interconnect with district heating systems and other users of heat” in a way that is practical, environmentally sound and cost effective.

A carbon neutral data cabling installation project

Designing, developing, and operating sustainable data centres is one of the industry’s biggest challenges, but at Bluepoint Technologies, we are leading the way as the first UK installer to complete a sustainable installation in a UK Data Centre. Here’s how we did it.

Project objectives

  1. To achieve a carbon neutral data communication system cabling infrastructure and installation for the client.
  2. Collaboratively reduce carbon emissions.
  3. Understand the areas of concern to be able to further reduce carbon emissions in future.

The steps to success

  1. Set strategy and define the brief
  2. Create process maps
  3. Measure and reduce carbon using LCA
  4. Results analysis and identify emission hotspots
  5. Carbon offset
  6. Present and discuss results

The results in numbers

  • 4 committed companies
  • 11 product families
  • 18 sub-unit LCAs
  • 432 products
  • 375,000 connectors
  • 131,100m of cables
  • 315,000m of fibre
  • 10 months
  • 1 tonne of CO2e saved!

This is just one of the many sustainable projects that we have completed for clients around the world. Bluepoint’s carbon neutral design approach outlines a project pathway to implement best practice sustainable design principles into each stage of the project.

Whilst reducing the carbon footprint of the data centre industry remains one of the industry’s biggest challenges, there are strides being made to achieve sustainability and net zero carbon within the next decade. So, what can you do as a business or organisation to make an immediate impact?

5 Changes All Businesses Can Make Right Now to Reduce Energy Consumption

There are some easy wins when it comes to reducing your facility’s energy consumption and taking the first steps towards a greener, more sustainable future. Here are just some ideas that you can implement right now:

  1. Always turn lights off in unoccupied rooms

Did you know that you can have light sensors installed to switch lights on and off automatically, depending on occupancy? Well, you can. And it will save you A LOT of money.

  1. Re-think Business Cards

At Bluepoint technologies, we recently made the switch from traditional paper business cards to NFC-enabled bamboo cards, which can simply be tapped onto any mobile device to allow on-the-spot sharing of contact information. This simple switch saves so much paper, and the cards look great, too. Read more, here.

  1. Reduce the use of plastic packaging

There are some easy ways to reduce your organisation’s use of single use plastic. Here are just a few of the many ways: carrying a re-usable bottle; company-branded tote bags instead of plastic bags; saying no to disposable cutlery and plastic straws; using recyclable coffee cups. Read more, here.

  1. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs

Switching to LED light bulbs can save you as much as 80% on lighting costs! You should also make the most of natural light from windows when it’s bright outside.

  1. Switch off appliances when not in use

Remind employees to switch off all computers and equipment when not in use. A great way to ensure correct appliances are switched off or left on is to implement a traffic light system. A red dot means never switch off, an amber dot means only authorised people can turn off and a green dot means anyone can turn off when not in use.

Guest blog from Kathryn Aves, Managing Director, Bluepoint Technologies

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