Data centre water consumption (2021)
Published in npj Clean Water 4, 11 (2021) (10.1038/s41545-021-00101-w). Open access: GitHub.
The information communication technology sector will experience huge growth over the coming years, with 29.3 billion devices expected online by 2030, up from 18.4 billion in 2018. To reliably support the online services used by these billions of users, data centres have been built around the world to provide the millions of servers they contain with access to power, cooling and internet connectivity. Whilst the energy consumption of these facilities regularly receives mainstream and academic coverage, analysis of their water consumption is scarce. Data centres consume water directly for cooling, in some cases 57% sourced from potable water, and indirectly through the water requirements of non-renewable electricity generation. Although in the USA, data centre water consumption (1.7 billion litres/day) is small compared to total water consumption (1218 billion litres/day), there are issues of transparency with less than a third of data centre operators measuring water consumption. This paper examines the water consumption of data centres, the measurement of that consumption, highlights the lack of data available to assess water efficiency, and discusses and where the industry is going in attempts to reduce future consumption.
Assessing the suitability of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol for calculation of emissions from public cloud computing workloads (2020)
Published in the Journal of Cloud Computing 9, 45 (2020) (10.1186/s13677-020-00185-8). Open access: GitHub, Spiral, Fatcat.
Efficiency improvements over the past decade have meant that data center energy usage has decoupled from the growth in IT workloads. Much of this efficiency improvement has been attributed to innovations made by “hyperscale” public cloud vendors, where a large proportion of new IT workloads are now being deployed. However, the move to the cloud is making it more difficult to assess the environmental impact of workloads deployed there. Although the large cloud vendors are amongst the largest purchasers of renewable electricity, customers do not have access to the data they need to complete emissions assessments under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Data such as Power Usage Effectiveness, emissions factors and equipment embodied energy are not available from public cloud vendors. This paper demonstrates how the Greenhouse Gas Protocol method of assessment of IT emissions does not work for public cloud environments and suggests how this can be tackled by the cloud vendors themselves.
Hiding greenhouse gas emissions in the cloud (2020)
Published in Nature Climate Change 10, 701 (2020) (10.1038/s41558-020-0837-6). Full-text access: Nature, Spiral, Fatcat. See also the related Imperial College London interview.
Data centres account for 1% of total global electricity demand but this may grow to between 15-30% of electricity consumption in some countries by 2030. The majority of this growth is attributed to cloud computing, particularly the larg-est “hyperscale” vendors. IT emissions previously accounted for under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Scope 1 and Scope 2 move to Scope 3 when outsourced to the cloud. However, the data needed to complete those calculations is not available from cloud vendors. Further, since Scope 3 emissions tend to be reported only voluntarily and the emissions are aggregated into the global emissions reporting by the large cloud vendors, this can result in emissions being hidden when they are moved to the cloud.
Renewable energy for data centers (2021)
Published by Uptime Institute, 12 Feb 2021.
Sustainability is becoming a key issue for data center operators. Investors, customers and legislators are increasingly demanding carbon emissions reporting and 100% renewable energy use. Organizations risk charges of greenwashing if purchased renewable energy certificates are the main or only component of sustainability strategies; many are now using instruments such as power purchase agreements to procure renewable energy for their operations. Some industry leaders are also adding large-scale battery deployments for energy storage
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