Sunday, January 29, 2023

Decarbonization of data center is key to grow data center industry

The world is warming at an alarming rate, setting humanity on an irreversible course of destruction if drastic action is not taken immediately. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth assessment report released in August 2021 reveals the sobering reality that Earth will reach and surpass the critical 1.5°C benchmark by 2052, or earlier, if the current rate of warming is not abated.

It is important to continue to emphasize the urgency of action and that while the target date deadline of 2050 is purposefully set to align with the Race to Zero, it is imperative to set as ambitious targets as possible. The “Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact” is a pledge by industry players and trade associations of cloud infrastructure services and data centers in Europe to achieve climate neutrality by 2030, we should encourage others to follow the same ambitions.

The IPCC report also states that warming is a direct result of emissions generated by humans and 38% of those energy-related emissions come from buildings (28% from operational emissions and 10% from materials and construction). Data centers alone going to cross 5% emission mark soon.

We are progressively and systematically implementing the strategies outlined in SDG 2030, but there is a need to do more in the face of the rising risks of climate impacts from a warming world.

The “Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact” outlines targets in five broad areas: energy efficiency, clean energy, water efficiency, circular energy, and circular economy. Technologies to enable all targets are here and now, it may not be evenly distributed across the world.

Technological transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient futuristic data center shall cover navigating the new energy landscape, one that is digitalized, decarbonized, and decentralized powered by AI and ML adopting 5G for IoT-enabled and able to manage increasingly dynamic IT demand and grid flexibility with increase of e-mobility solutions such as electric vehicles require a higher level of sophistication than in previous years.

We have few challenges at date centers decarbonization strategies; dependance on natural gas adding strain on your energy usage and total energy spend. Reliability is more important than energy efficiency in data center. You may need to achieve demanding sustainability goals, while ensuring you have the energy supply to maintain business continuity and availability. At the same time, you may need to provide data transparency to entire supply chain to meet the needs of scope 3, having digitalization as top priority.

Best strategy called “Total Energy Management” for decarbonization which involves creating a holistic and customized energy program using advanced technology to REDUCE, PRODUCE and PROCURE clean and affordable energy with digitalization.

Total Energy Management allows you to better prioritize your investments. Best kWh is what saved through energy efficiency and shall be first step to improve the PUE in the range of 15-40%, wherein majority of performance improvement on cooling system including demand-based chiller plant optimization and AI driven crac unit optimization for white spaces.

Producing renewable energy on site is 2ndbest kWh, up to 60% transition to renewable energy and greening the grid are ways to achieve decarbonization. While green hydrogen is getting closer to commercial use, we should maximize the utilization of solar combined with battery energy storage system coupled with microgrid controllers.

3rd best kWh is what we procure from clean and green source through long term PPA arrangement followed by sustainable and responsible investment. Direct carbon capture and storage can also be explored while investing in quality carbon offsets.

I believe that digitalization and decarbonization goes hand in hand, supported by data-driven, cloud-enabled solutions to achieve decarbonization. Scalable energy efficiency technologies, clean and green energy transition need direct investments in decarbonizing technologies by whole ecosystem of data center industry including customer, service providers and in clean energy providers.