In an era where digital technology is integral to every aspect of our lives, the role of data centres has become more crucial than ever. While it’s true that data centres are significant energy consumers, it’s important to recognise the strides being made in the industry to balance operational demands with sustainability goals. The International Energy Agency notes that Data centre energy usage accounts for just under 1% of global electricity demand, contributing to 0.3% of global CO2 emissions. Yet, forward-thinking companies are actively working to reduce this impact, making today’s data centres far more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than ever before.

This blog investigates what makes a data centre sustainable, explores the critical role of water consumption and cooling systems, and discusses a range of energy consumption monitoring tactics to help sustainable-focused data centres optimise their energy consumption. This includes measuring energy efficiency through the power usage effectiveness (PUE) index; monitoring power; utilising the latest cooling technology and deploying environmental sensors.

Read on to find out how we can optimise towards a more sustainable data centre.


What is a Sustainable Data Centre?

Sustainability in data centres is about reducing environmental impact through minimising energy,&water usage and the resultant emissions. At Telehouse, we define a sustainable data centre as one that is conscientiously designed, constructed, and operated to reduce its ecological footprint and negative social impacts whilst balancing the need to maintain uninterrupted services. Key strategies include leveraging renewable energy, reducing data centre energy consumption, and employing state-of-the-art technologies for further efficiency gains. Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a core consideration in IT infrastructure planning. In our recent “Vision for Digital Infrastructure in 2030” report, a notable 84% of 250 UK IT decision-makers emphasised sustainability as a critical factor in their decision-making process.

Telehouse has adopted several measures:

Download the Telehouse ‘Vision for Digital Infrastructure in 2030’ report for more insights.

How to Measure Energy Consumption in Data Centres?

Measuring energy consumption in data centres is a multifaceted process that involves various metrics and indicators. Among these, Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) stands out as a key metric for evaluating energy efficiency. But before delving into PUE, it’s important to understand the broader context of energy monitoring in data centres.

Data centres track a range of metrics to gauge their energy and environmental impact. This does not just include direct energy consumption, but also factors like water usage, waste generation, and greenhouse gas emissions. Monitoring these metrics helps data centres align with global standards, such as the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, which categorises emissions into Scope 1, 2, and 3. These scopes cover direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, and all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain, respectively.

What is Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)?

With this broader perspective in mind, we can focus on PUE, a specific metric crucial in assessing a data centre’s energy efficiency. PUE measures the ratio of the total energy consumed by the entire facility to the energy used directly by the IT equipment.

How is PUE Measured?

To calculate PUE, divide the total facility power by the IT equipment energy. This simple formula provides a clear indication of how efficiently a data centre is using its power. The perfect PUE is 1.0, indicating that nearly all energy consumed is used for computing. Data centres (both new and legacy) must achieve lower PUE in order to meet the considerable (and growing) legislative pressures as we transition to a net zero economy.

While PUE is an essential tool for measuring energy efficiency in data centres, it’s part of a broader suite of metrics that collectively provide a comprehensive view of a data centre’s energy and environmental performance.

How to Optimise Energy Consumption in Data Centres?

Effective optimisation of energy consumption in data centres is key to achieving sustainability goals. This can be accomplished through a variety of strategies, each targeting different aspects of data centre operations. Let’s explore some of the most effective methods:

Monitoring Power with DCIM Systems: These systems offer detailed insights into power and cooling performance, enhancing overall energy efficiency.

Reducing PUE Levels: By continuously measuring and optimising PUE, data centres can significantly enhance their energy efficiency.

Identifying Idle Servers: Utilising intelligent PDUs and DCIM data help identify and manage underused servers, reducing power consumption and operational costs.

Deploying Environmental Sensors: Sensors provide critical data on environmental conditions, ensuring equipment operates efficiently and within safe parameters.

Implementing Remote Power Control: DCIM software allows for remote power management of equipment, especially during low-usage periods, to save energy.

Utilising Latest Cooling Technology: Advanced systems, like Telehouse’s multi-storey adiabatic system, improve energy efficiency while saving water.

Turning Waste into an Asset: Repurposing excess heat from data centres for local heating needs can significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Switching to Zero-Carbon Energy: The transition to zero-carbon energy sources is the next key step to reducing the carbon footprint of data centres.

Asset Management; Ensuring return and flow set points are raised but remain well within acceptable tolerances for server temperatures.

Asset Life Cycle: Replacing/refurbishing aged infrastructure to align with efficiency targets as well the impacts of end of life disposal of such infrastructure.

Capacity Management: Balance the need to install supporting infrastructure with IT demand. Without this infrastructure may still idle or under utilised leading to poor efficiencies.

Planned, Preventative Maintenance: Ensuring supporting infrastructure is maintained to ‘like-new’ working conditions results in efficiency improvements and prevents equipment downtime.

In conclusion, as digital infrastructure continues to evolve, the role of sustainable data centres becomes increasingly vital. By implementing innovative cooling solutions, monitoring energy consumption, and committing to renewable energy, data centres are not only fulfilling current demands but are also paving the way for a more sustainable future. To discover more, download our “A Vision for Digital Infrastructure in 2030” report, or connect with the Telehouse team for further information.