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UK data centre operators urged to do more to address climate change impact

Written by Tue 5 Nov 2019

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TechUK draws up 10-step guidance to help UK data centres improve green credentials

TechUK has called on the UK data centre sector to ramp up efforts to tackle climate change and help the Government meet its target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

According to the trade body’s latest data centre report, operators from all sectors need to do more to improve energy efficiency and use of renewables.

10-step guidance

The 23-page roadmap lays out how data centres can balance resilience, affordability and sustainability and covers 10 areas: strategy and policy, security of supply, energy stewardship, renewables, ‘becoming a prosumer’, reporting, transparency, heat reuse, air quality and regulation.

The report, which the organisation said is “a work in progress,” acknowledged the great strides made in key areas security of supply, renewable sourcing and energy stewardship and praised increasing sector adoption of low carbon power and application of operational standards, best practices and performances metrics.

However, TechUK said work still needed to be done to improve heat reuse, renewables adoption and energy reporting.

“Overall, what we really need to know is that the sector is consuming less energy than it is saving in terms of avoided emissions, improved efficiency and dematerialisation. The problem is that this is very difficult to measure,” the report reads.

To tackle this, the report calls for a “coherent” regulatory regime that forces distributed, in-house and public sector IT segments to publish such reports.

The trade body added that UK data centres must “continue to deliver orders of magnitude improvements in energy productivity and efficiency” to ensure surging consumer, enterprise and public sector data demand does not trigger a spike in energy consumption.

TechUK said the sector is well-positioned to make a positive contribution to the UK’s renewable energy output, but warned a careful balancing act is required and that the “right technologies, expertise and policy levers” need to be in place, as operators will not implement measures that increase real or perceived customer risk.

“The primary function of a data centre is to deliver productivity, security, reliability and efficiency. Generating electricity, other than to ensure continuity of service, is not a data centre’s core business.”

Commenting on the report, Emma Fryer, TechUK’s associate director for data centres, said the 10-step guidance should be viewed as a starting point.

“The data centre sector is consistently challenged about energy use, energy stewardship, emissions and growth. We need to look at these challenges much more strategically at sector level, not just how we respond to them but how the sector is positioned within the energy ecosystem,” Fryer added.

“Although we do well in key areas like energy stewardship and resilience, there is always more that can be done, and performance is not always consistent across the sector. As industry representatives, TechUK can help with guidance, sharing best practice and facilitating dialogue with policy makers and other stakeholders.”

Written by Tue 5 Nov 2019


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