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Europe is Struggling with Costly Data – So How is that Affecting Data Centre Carbon Emissions?

Going green, becoming sustainable, and overall, being climate conscious are no longer good to have, but must dos for all businesses. Despite naysayers, the fight for the Earth is at its peak, yet many businesses across Europe are struggling in their decarbonisation journeys. JSA Media Consultant João Marques Lima offers a closer look.

 

This is in part due to rising costs and economic uncertainty which are having an impact on their budgets, as well as the fragmentation of their internal data sets and insights.

Only 38% of the more than 4,000 business leaders on the continent think of their decarbonisation efforts to date as very successful, according to an Atos and Amazon Web Services (AWS) report.

Published by Coleman Parkes Research, the survey covered four major European countries, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, and asked “How are companies and business leaders managing their decarbonisation efforts to reach net zero in Europe by 2050?”.

Against the backdrop of the Paris Agreement goals and the broader recognition to drive sustainable and digital transition towards an increasingly low-carbon society, almost all organisations surveyed (96%) have set emissions reduction targets.

With this being merely the first step in a long journey, businesses across different sectors are facing diverse challenges in properly tracking their carbon footprint and delivering the necessary solutions to meet these targets.

The report suggests that while three in four business leaders believe that cloud technology would accelerate their companies’ journey to net zero by two years or more, there was still a fifth of the organisations who were yet to go cloud-first and thereby benefit from a reduced carbon footprint. Only 38% of business leaders surveyed rated their decarbonisation efforts to date as very successful.

Diane Galbe, Senior Executive Vice President, in charge of Sustainability & Net Zero Transformation Practice, Atos said: “The research clearly shows that decarbonization is now a priority for all businesses, and with the amount of data proliferating, not only within an organization but also between them, effective data management and cloud integration are becoming increasingly important.

“The power of digital in decarbonization cannot be underestimated. As the survey shows there is a demand for more digitalization and measurement to support decarbonization objectives. Our end-to-end service offering, backed by experienced decarbonisation specialists and which includes calculation and reporting tools, and low-carbon cloud offers, has real impact in enabling our clients to reduce their carbon footprint.”

 

What about data centres

Data centres account for between 1 to 1.5% of global energy consumption – equivalent to the aviation industry – and this is projected to rise to eight per cent by 2030 if nothing is done, according to Huawei Technologies. 

Data centres in the European Union itself are responsible for 2.7% of the territory’s demand. By 2030, theoretically, the generated renewable electricity (≈11,000 TWh), will, with some likelihood, exceed the electricity demand of all networks and data centres (2200 to 23,100 TWh).

But whilst electricity production plays a big part in greening the data centre, it is what happens at the facility and beyond that can truly help with reducing carbon footprints. 

Although the Atos/AWS survey does not specify industry specifics, it is safe to say that in general, data centres are quickly becoming an example to other sectors in Europe on how to reduce emissions, give back, and create positive sustainable circular economies. 

Take for example QTS Data Centers project in the Netherlands which will send excess heat from its Groningen facility in the country to warm up as many as 10,000 homes in Zernike, Paddepoel and Selwerd.

STACK Infrastructure and Hafslund Oslo Celsio (Celsio), the district heating provider for Norway’s capital city, have also recently completed a one-year ramp-up and excess heat produced by STACK’s OSL01 data centre is now providing heat and hot water for up to 5,000 Oslo homes.

Big Tech firms like Meta, AWS, Microsoft and Google, as well as leasing real estate players, have been for a while sending excess heat to local heat recovery systems to warm up homes, schools, hospitals and offices.

At the heart of it all is data. Data centres are time machines of the future, equipped with some of the latest industrial monitoring devices and systems. See for example Schneider Electric’s EcoStructure which collects critical data and enables operators to analyse inputs in real time and automatically make informed decisions around power consumption and distribution. 

Furthermore, this is not just about the data centre making itself as planet friendly as possible. Data centres also enable every other business to reduce their footprint by not having to run their own infrastructure. 

Chris Wellise, Director of Sustainability at AWS, said: “What I think is so interesting here is that business leaders who have already engaged cloud services think they are more successful in delivering carbon reductions. The data backs up this view, as cloud offers nearly any company or public body a less carbon intensive way of managing their IT. The other fascinating insight here is that around three in four business leaders see the cloud as accelerating their journey to net zero emissions by two years or more.”

Another way data is helping data centres push back on carbon trails are initiatives like Greener Data pioneered by JSA and whose data is now aiding dozens of operators navigate the journey through the different Scoops.

The program recently launched the Greener Data Directory, an online rolodex of sustainability-minded companies, including technologists and innovators who serve the digital infrastructure industry, that aims to connect organisations that are dedicated to getting to net carbon zero quickly throughout global operations by using data.

Whilst inflation and economic uncertainty are affecting businesses’ budgets which is consequently delivering shortcomings on decarbonisation journeys, cloud and data centre platforms are gaining new traction amidst the economic turmoil for their positive impact on resources consumption and green approaches. However, like everything, not everyone is an example and there is also a path for some that is still long, especially around water consumption. 

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