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What Can Be Done About the Data Centre Energy Drain?

What Can Be Done About the Data Centre Energy Drain?
08 December 2022

Data centres already make up three per cent of global electricity consumption, and with the ever-expanding adoption of technology, consumption will only increase further.

Matthew Margetts from Smarter Technologies explains why data centres consume so much electricity and how the world should look to manage this issue.   

Matthew is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Smarter Technologies. His background includes working for blue-chip companies such as AppNexus, AOL/ Verizon, and Microsoft in the UK, Far East and Australia.


Data Centres Estimated to be Responsible for 4% of Global Energy Consumption by 2030


The total installed base of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices worldwide is projected to amount to 30.9 billion units by 2025. Data centres already use massive amounts of energy, and with more and more devices coming online, they’ll need to find ways to scale capacity and consumption.

Data centres are estimated to be responsible for as much as three per cent of global electricity consumption today, projected to increase to four per cent by 2030. The average hyperscale facility consumes 20-50MW annually, which is theoretically enough electricity to power up to 37,000 homes.


Why do Data Centres Consume so Much Energy?


  • They need a constant power supply with minimal disruptions.
  • Servers, storage drives and network devices convert energy into heat, which must be removed from the data centre by cooling equipment (that also runs on electricity/water)
  • Data centres also require additional equipment, such as humidifiers and monitors.
  • Facilities must be kept at the appropriate temperature at all times


Will Data Centre’s Energy Consumption Become More Regulated?


Data centres will almost certainly experience increased regulations in 2023 as the world continues to grapple with mounting pressures to meet consumer demand for energy and water against the backdrop of ongoing climate change. Data centres are outsized consumers of these resources, forcing governments at all levels to take a harder look at data centre regulation. In response, the industry understands that pursuing energy and water efficiency and focusing on overall environmental and community impact are crucial to its future success and survival.

For example, as part of its goal to become carbon negative by 2030, Microsoft is building three of the world’s most energy-efficient data centres in Denmark. Microsoft aims to complete the data centres by 2024. Innovations in these data centres include:


  1. Green, renewable power
  2. Specially designed low-energy hardware that minimises waste heat (making them 80 per cent more energy efficient)
  3. Recycling the surplus heat by redistributing it to the municipalities to provide heating for up to 15,000 Danish households


Global Energy Price Rises


Another challenge which has hit the data centre industry hard is the increase in energy prices around the world—an increase of 600 per cent since January 2021 in the UK market. And prices could still get higher. The UK government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme for businesses will help, but it won’t solve the problem altogether.


Future Sustainable Data Centres


Data centres are looking at ways of becoming more sustainable in terms of energy efficiency and carbon emissions. The good news is that new technology is well-placed to make a difference. While there is a lot of talk about carbon neutrality and getting to net zero in the data centre sector, the first step is looking at energy efficiency—from procuring energy-efficient equipment, sourcing renewable energy, having the most energy-efficient data centre design and implementing a smart building energy monitoring system.

Reducing demand is also possible through server consolidation, storage and network consolidation, hybrid cloud, telecommunications, and RAN optimisation. Every year technology developments drive further efficiency in the data centre space to drive efficiency. It’s amazing to think that many data centres didn’t even contain containment just a few years ago.


The (Somewhat Ironic) Role of IoT Technology


While the energy impact of data centres is undeniable, what can’t be ignored is the energy efficiency trends that have developed in parallel. So, although the rise in IoT technology is increasing data centre demand, it’s also providing better energy management.


Here’s how:

  1. Sensor technology measures and controls conditions like temperature, humidity, air quality, and power.
  2. These smart building systems allow for the automatic adjustment to optimal conditions, increasing efficiency and reducing wastage.—all without relying on human interaction.
  3. Intelligent power distribution management manages power load and distribution, such as reducing the number of servers needed during low-traffic hours.
  4. Smart monitoring and management tools match the server capacity to real-time demands.
  5. Phase balancing reduces distribution feeder losses and improves system stability and security.
  6. Smart systems can efficiently and automatically manage heat distribution and recycling.


Data centre operations require a safe, efficient, dependable and sustainable power supply.  Fortunately, the same smart technology that is necessitating the growth of data centres is also helping to make them more energy efficient and future-fit.

Picture: a photograph showing a computer screen with energy monitoring graphs. Image Credit: Smarter Technologies

Article written by Matthew Margetts | Published 08 December 2022


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