Telehouse discusses how data centres are putting sustainability at the heart of their service provision.

Data centres (DCs) support our modern economy by transmitting, receiving, processing, storing and managing digital data. From reading emails first thing in the morning to streaming content in the evening, society’s demands for any-time access to data requires DCs to operate 24/7.  To maintain fully operational DCs, reliable and constant electricity supply is required.

The UK Government has set challenging carbon reduction targets, with a commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. However, in an international context where climate change and global efforts to reduce emissions pose a great pressure in all industries and sectors, how can data centres balance continual growth and support modern needs while contributing to challenging carbon reduction targets?

Going green IT and sustainability

The DC industry often comes under criticism for the type and amount of power it uses. Therefore many efforts have been made to increase the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, instead of traditional, carbon-heavy fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

A recent survey of UK commercial operators revealed that 76.5% of the electricity they purchased is 100% renewable, 6.5% is between 0 and 50% renewable, 7% is between 50% and 99% renewable and 10% is purchased according to customer demand**.

When it comes to improving data centre efficiency, green design is essential from inception. By establishing proactive, tech-forward sustainability and efficiency measures from the outset, data centre companies can ensure sustainable operation, maintenance and refurbishment of their facilities, focusing on a cleaner, more circular use of materials, energy and water. However, trying to balance cost and upgrading to more efficient technologies to support the UK’s low carbon future poses a challenge.

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DC providers are also developing their own internal environmental strategies and policies to respond effectively to these challenges. They are also adopting appropriate international standards in Environment and Energy Management (ISO 14001:2015 & ISO 50001:2018) to manage environmental impacts and improve energy performance as well as measuring and reporting energy use and efficiency through different government and voluntary schemes to improve transparency.

Digital activities and transparency

However, when it comes to helping customers to understand the energy impacts of their digital activities, there is still of work to be done. Data centres are commercial businesses rather than consumer facing organisations, therefore being transparent about energy consumption is significantly important as it enables customers to take accountability for their own emissions arising from their supply chain and outsourced activities.  There is also lack of awareness about impacts of the online activities preventing many individual consumers to make conscious sustainable choices.

Sustainable business strategy: working in collaboration

As environmental obligations increasingly become intertwined within the business operations, awareness of these greener requirements are growing and organisations are looking to collaborate with those who demonstrate a clear commitment to sustainable growth and efficient use of resources.

Businesses are working in partnership with industry bodies and regulators to deliver solutions that support operational efficiency, innovation, carbon reductions, resilience and value for customers. After all, almost everyone in the world is connected to a DC in some way – and by putting sustainability at the heart of the DC operations; they will continue to meet ever-growing digital needs in a progressive, sustainable and scalable way.


* TechUK UK data centre market overview V3 – page 9
** TechUK: Desk research conducted by techUK of CCA participants

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