Europe’s top data centre hubs produce 6.3 million tonnes of CO2 each year, according to new research
Thu 26 Oct 2023
Relocating data centre infrastructure from existing hubs to emerging hotspots with greener energy networks could cut their associated CO2 emissions by up to 91%, according to new research from DataVita.
“Data centres have made great strides optimising power usage effectiveness, water usage, waste heat recycling, and other efficiency measures, but sheer processing demand growth continues to outpace these improvements. The challenge will only increase as organisations increasingly rely on IT services and net zero targets draw nearer,” said Danny Quinn, MD of DataVita.
The data centre and multicloud services provider, working with digital sustainability consultancy Posetiv, analysed the ‘carbon intensity’ of Europe’s top five data centre markets: London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, and Dublin.
Carbon intensity is a measure of the amount of CO2 generated per kilowatt-hour of electricity used. Countries with more renewable sources in their energy mix tend to score low, while those relying on fossil fuels have a higher associated carbon intensity.
DataVita found that the electricity usage of the five cities’ data infrastructure amounted to a combined annual 6.3 million tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to the carbon footprint of powering 1.2 million average UK households.
According to DataVita, transitioning all five cities’ collective data centre footprint to Scotland could cut total emissions by more than 80%.
“If organisations are serious about reducing the environmental impact of their IT services, they need to take a close look at where the critical infrastructure they use is located. Looking to a market like Scotland, where renewable sources account for a much larger portion of the energy mix, could cut related emissions by 84-91%,” added Quinn.
Frankfurt had the highest annual carbon footprint associated with data centre infrastructure, at 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 – relocating its capacity to Scotland could reduce emissions by 91%.
|Average carbon intensity
|Annual footprint (tonnes)
“There is no advantage in terms of latency and performance by using a data centre in these markets for the majority of IT workloads – particularly when it comes to London and Dublin. Any Scotland-based companies looking at large-scale cloud adoption should reflect on these metrics and consider whether potentially quadrupling their emissions, by choosing a provider in a one of the main markets, is a sensible strategy when delivering your services,” said Quinn.
Southern Scotland, including the country’s central belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow, had an average carbon intensity of 54.97 grams during 2022, according to National Grid data. This is around one-quarter of London’s 200.46 grams and nearly nine times lower than Frankfurt’s 473.62 grams.
Mark Butcher, MD of Posetiv, said: “Scotland’s energy system offers prime sustainability for these data-intensive cities. In fact, transitioning all five cities’ collective data centre footprint to Scotland could cut total emissions by over 80% – placing sustainability firmly alongside surging digital demand.
“Renewable-rich locations offer a way to fundamentally pair commercial growth with absolute emissions reductions – an essential combination in the climate era. While no single solution will address the industry’s emissions alone, strategically building out lower-carbon hubs in locations like Scotland is an important piece of the net zero puzzle.”
Hungry for more tech news?
Sign up for your weekly tech briefings!