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EU-backed datacentre consortium seeks industry help for Europe-wide sustainability push

Catalyst Consortium is creating a green energy special interest group to work out how best to encourage Europe’s datacentre operators to reuse their waste heat and reduce the impact of their activities on local energy grids

The Catalyst Consortium, an EU-backed initiative concerned with turning datacentres into “flexible multi-energy hubs”, will launch a green energy special interest group next month to support its work.

The Green Datacentre - Stakeholders Group (GDC-SG) will collaborate on finding ways to overcome the technological, business and regulatory barriers that could prevent datacentres from contributing to smart energy and district heating systems in future.

This is in keeping with the consortium’s overarching aim to transform the datacentre industry into an energy-efficient community of prosumers – operators that not only consume renewable power to run their facilities, but also self-generate their own supplies.

There are instances of this already occurring, with some hyperscalers often pairing their builds with pledges to invest in boosting the capacity of local renewable energy sources to counteract the amount of energy they consume from the grid.  

Another component of the consortium’s work is to promote the reuse of waste datacentre heat, and encourage datacentre hubs across Europe to contribute to local district heating systems.

“Over the last decade, datacentres have made strides in successfully implementing energy-efficient measures to reduce their energy and carbon footprint and bring down the accompanying costs,” the consortium said.

“Nevertheless, as the industry becomes more mature and aware of its social and environmental impact and responsibilities, it becomes apparent that new opportunities can arise.

“In addition, developments in related sectors, such as integration of renewable energy sources to power grids, heat networks and emerging energy services models, provide fertile grounds to explore further datacentre interaction with their local ecosystem to continuously improve their energy efficiency.”

The reuse of waste datacentre heat is more prevalent in some European countries than others, with Sweden and Finland both known to host facilities that use their excess heat to warm homes and businesses in the local area.

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In the UK, the practice is less common because of the scarcity of district heating systems, although assurances are sometimes sought by local councils when granting planning permission that attempts will be made by operators to reuse the waste heat their sites produce.

The GDC-SG’s activities are due to kick off at a launch event in Amsterdam on 4 September 2018, and the consortium is inviting datacentre operators, utility providers, energy retailers and regulators to get involved.

“The mission is to contribute to the vision of green datacentres as engaged players in the energy transition towards the decarbonisation of society,” the consortium’s invitation states.

“During this [launch] event, the group will be officially established, its creation manifesto debated and initial activities outlined.”

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