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TechUK calls on datacentre sector to scale up climate change action efforts

Tech trade body TechUK claims the datacentre sector must do more to tackle climate change, and assist the government with its pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

UK datacentre operators must become more ambitious with their commitments to tackling climate change, and do more to help the government achieve its goal of cutting UK carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050.

That is according to TechUK’s latest datacentre sector-focused guidance, which calls on operators of all sizes and specialisms to set themselves more stringent energy efficiency, renewable power usage and carbon reduction targets.

“Datacentre operators, large and small, commercial (colocation) and in-house (enterprise), private and public sector need to establish baselines, set themselves targets and monitor progress. They should also consider commitments to public disclosure and customer transparency,” the tech trade body’s 28-page Datacentre energy routemap document states.

These targets should be informed and aligned to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those focused on areas such as clean energy use and climate action, the document added.

Some operators are already making waves in this regard, with the report calling out IBM and BT, in particular, for their “well-established and leading-edge climate change programmes”. While others, according to TechUK, still have some way to go to match their efforts.

“The picture is not consistent across the industry and many operators can learn from their counterparts or adapt an industry template,” the report said.

Ten-point plan for datacentre sector clean-up

The climate change commitment is just one of 10 energy-related areas flagged in the report that TechUK claims the datacentre sector needs to address to help the government hit its 2050 carbon emission reduction target.

It also goes on to detail the progress so far, as well as the work the sector still needs to do, on areas such as heat reuse, green energy adoption, and monitoring the amount and type of power operators use.

On this point, the document claims if the sector commits to running on 100% renewable power “well before” 2050, while doing a better job of measuring its energy consumption and reusing its waste heat, this will go some way to helping the government meet its net-zero carbon emissions commitment.

“The UK’s challenging net-zero carbon targets must be achieved without compromising security of supply or rendering UK energy consumers uncompetitive, and the datacentre sector must balance resilience, affordability and sustainability to address these challenges,” said the Routemap document.

It also states the sector must do more to minimise the impact its activities have on air quality, and reduce its reliance on the national grid by getting operators to self-generate their own renewable energy supplies.

“The sector is performing well in key priority areas, such as security of supply, adoption of renewables, energy stewardship, reporting energy use and customer transparency,” the TechUK document reads.

However, the same cannot be said for some of the other areas TechUK has flagged in the report.

“Progress is slower in other areas, such as playing a more dynamic role in the electricity market where projects are mainly at the R&D [research and development] or pilot stage,” it said. “Success is elusive in the reuse of waste heat and using embedded capacity to facilitate a more distributed grid.”

The routemap’s publication is being billed by TechUK as a starting point for discussions and action on these issues, which Emma Fryer, the organisation’s associate director for datacentres, said the sector needs to start addressing in a more strategic way.

“The datacentre 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.” 

Read more about datacentres and climate change

Read more on Datacentre energy efficiency and green IT

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