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Shifting all of the server farm capacity contained within five of Europe’s largest datacentre hubs to places that are powered by renewable energy could cut the sector’s carbon emissions by up to 91%, it is claimed.
In a joint piece of analysis by Scottish datacentre provider DataVita and IT sustainability consultancy Posetiv, the “carbon intensity” of Europe’s top five datacentre markets – London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin – was analysed.
Danny Quinn, managing director of DataVita, said its analysis of the market revealed there was “no advantage in terms of latency and performance for the majority of workloads” by using datacentres in any of these five cities – particularly 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 one of the main markets, is a sensible strategy when delivering your services,” he said.
The term carbon intensity is used to describe the amount of carbon dioxide generated per kilowatt-hour of electricity, with countries that have a lower carbon intensity score tending to have more renewable power in their energy mix.
“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,” the research stated.
However, it found that if the collective datacentre footprint of these five cities were transitioned to Scotland, total emissions would drop by more than 80%.
“Frankfurt had the highest annual carbon footprint associated with datacentre infrastructure, at 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 – relocating its capacity to Scotland could reduce emissions by 91%,” the research added.
“[This is because] 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, managing director of Posetiv, said enterprises that are serious about improving the sustainability of their operations need to consider moving some of their workloads out of the major datacentre hubs.
“Scotland’s energy system [for example] offers prime sustainability for these data-intensive cities. In fact, transitioning all five cities’ collective datacentre footprint to Scotland could cut total emissions by over 80% – placing sustainability firmly alongside surging digital demand,” he said.
“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.”
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