Becoming a Carbon Reduction Commitment 'good performer'

Complying with Carbon Reduction Commitment regulation helps avoid hefty fines and brings reputational benefits. Learn how to become a CRC 'good performer' and reap the benefits.

UK enterprises are required to comply with Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme. In the previous tip, we outlined the steps data centre managers can take to comply with the regulations. In this tip, we discuss best practice steps for becoming a CRC 'good performer' and explore the benefits such compliance brings.

Ensuring that your data centre complies with the Carbon Reduction Commitment regulation isn't simply about avoiding penalties. Compliance can also bring reputational benefits. This is especially true if your organisation is a 'good carbon performer'.

How do you make sure that you perform well under the CRC rules? The answer depends on the specifics of your data centre, but almost every data centre should consider following certain strategies to maximise cost savings and bring energy efficiency inside its data centre walls.

Consulting a specialist on Carbon Reduction Commitment 

One very effective action you can take with respect to a new or existing data centre is to consult a specialist on how to best meet the stringent power and cooling demands of latest-generation IT equipment. The right partner can make a real performance difference, so make sure that your specialist is properly qualified and can prove competence in all areas of regulations, compliance and technical advice.

Keeping the data centre cool  

Another strategy would be to keep the data centre cool. An efficient and reliable air conditioning and cooling system is essential to protect IT equipment from overheating. And because cooling is responsible for such a high share of power consumption within the data centre, the choice of air conditioner can have a significant effect on running costs -- both financially and environmentally. Ensure that your supplier can demonstrate experience in the implementation of the latest cooling techniques, technologies, and best-of-breed products.

Here are three strategies you can use to maintain optimum temperature in your data centre:

Mechanical cooling: Look for suppliers that know how to use downdraught air conditioning units and pressurised floor voids so that cold air is delivered to exactly the required location. This is most efficient when used with ceiling voids as the hot-air return path. The best air conditioning units use direct drive fans for increased reliability -- no fan belts to break in the middle of the night. These units should also offer the flexibility and convenience of remote monitoring and control, enabling temperature and humidity set points to be updated and critical indicators to be checked via Web access.

Free cooling: Today, it's possible to use cold air from the outside environment to cool a server room. The external ambient temperature in the UK makes this possible for 67% of the year on average, making air cooling a low-cost, low-carbon alternative to traditional air conditioning systems. In a recent example, a project with an IT load of 60 kVA (effectively 48 kWs of heat load), a free-cooling solution produced an annual cost saving of more than 85%. This may well be achievable for your own data centre.

Hybrid systems: Where free-cooling cannot completely satisfy the cooling load, partial free-cooling can be implemented -- that is, free cooling which is topped up with an element of mechanical cooling.

Understanding and using PUE effectively

Now adopted widely across the industry, power usage effectiveness (PUE) is a metric which helps data centres understand and improve the energy consumption of existing installations; it also helps them make smarter decisions on new deployments. In addition, the metric provides a dependable way to measure results against comparable IT organisations.

What does a PUE rating tell you? Consider a data centre in which the PUE is found to be 3.0. This indicates that the data centre demand is three times greater than the energy necessary to power the IT equipment. This ratio can be used as a multiplier for calculating the real effects of the system's power demands. For example, if a server demands 500 W and the PUE for the data centre is 3, then the power from the utility grid needed to deliver 500 watts to the server is 1,500 W. Theoretically, PUE values can range from 1.0 (100% efficient) to infinity.

What PUE value should you aim to achieve? Currently, there are no comprehensive data sets which show the true spread of the PUE for data centres. Although some studies have shown that many data centres may have a PUE of 3.0 or greater, a value of 1.6 should be readily achievable with proper design. In fact, in a recent project for Gwynedd Council in Wales, Comms Room Services used a mixture of free-air cooling, cold aisle enclosure and electronic uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems to reduce server room running costs and deliver a PUE rating of 1.28. A similar project by the service provider for Surrey County Council is expected to deliver a PUE of 1.3.

Following the EU Code of Conduct

The European Code of Conduct is a flexible voluntary mechanism to initiate and develop policy to improve energy efficiency. Originally set up in 2000 to cover two areas of power usage (external power supplies and digital TV services), the code now covers four additional areas (UPS, broadband equipment and data centres).

The code provides a forum for industry, experts and member states to discuss market, product and system performance. Ensure that your suppliers formally endorse the Code of Conduct to guarantee that your company implements the latest energy-efficient technologies, techniques and best practices.

By following these steps, data centre managers can become a Carbon Reduction Commitment 'good performer' and reap both financial and reputational advantages.

Mark Allingham is a certified data centre design professional with more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry. As owner/director of UK-based data centre design and build specialist Comms Room Services Ltd. for the past 10 years, Allingham has delivered a broad range of projects for both public- and private-sector clients in the UK.

This was last published in November 2011

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