An international approach for data centres

  • (C) Henrik5000 @

    (C) Henrik5000 @

    Approximately 30 million kW of electricity is used by data centres across the world, around the same as 30 nuclear power plants. The power demand in data centres (per rack) is growing very quickly for the UK and other developed countries. Data centres use an average of about 5.3kW per rack now, compared with 3.78kW per rack last year. However, more than 10kW per rack is used in 20% of UK data centres. In addition, global investment in data centres has risen by 22%, a trend that is similar in the UK.

  • An investigation by the New York Times disclosed that most data centres, specifically those associated with IT facilities, consume energy in a wasteful manner by running facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, independent of demand, which results in the waste of 90% or more of energy consumed.
  • In addition, vast numbers of generators are relied upon to prevent power failure which release diesel exhaust. According to the report, this exhaust can be emitted in amounts that violate clean air regulations and many data centres in Silicon Valley appear on California’s Toxic Air Contaminant Inventory.

Implications and next steps: The increasing energy share (data centres have increased their power usage by 63% in the last year) suggests there may be benefit in data centres providing green credentials and ensuring a reduction in energy consumption in the long-run. This is an international issue as the boundary-less nature of the internet business allows companies to move their centres to locations with less stringent monitoring and taxes.

The New York Times:

About Joao Delgado

Joao is a Research Fellow in Futures Research and leads on medium-large scale futures projects at CERF. Amongst other projects, he has led the development of scenarios for the future of river basin management for the Environment Agency. His professional interests include veterinary science, epidemiology, risk and systems thinking.
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