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Expert discusses keeping it green as a top priority for 2021

Expert discusses keeping it green as a top priority for 2021

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It is now widely understood that the UK is to reach its legally binding zero-carbon target in the UK by 2050 and in order to do so, we must make rapid changes to the way we run our data centres. Jon Healy, Operations Director at Keysource, discusses how sustainability is set to dominate business decisions over the coming year, and how to clean up our act.

The Keysource 2020 State of the Industry Report, which surveyed over 100 senior IT professionals, unsurprisingly is dominated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology changes and challenges that it has brought to business and its effect on people’s ability to work, their priorities and decision-making processes.

However, we also wanted to ensure that we captured other issues in our questions in order to ensure some continuity. One of these was the continuing importance of the green agenda. Over three-quarters of this year’s respondents stated that sustainability will have a medium or high influence on IT decisions over the next 12 months.

This is perhaps no surprise. There is no doubt that energy and carbon are high on political agendas and that we are likely to see more policy measures, particularly if the UK is to reach our legally binding zero-carbon target in the UK by 2050. The European Commission, meanwhile, is rolling out a hugely ambitious package of environmental measures and data centres are firmly in the firing line; the sector must be climate-neutral by 2030, for instance.

Depending on your source, the data centre sector accounts for between 2-3% of all global electricity usage which means that there is likely to be continued pressure for operators to be more efficient. This may well be in part driven by the customers who will be keen to align with suppliers who may share their sustainability values.

As political and commercial drivers focus more on sustainability, this suggests an interesting road ahead, with government-backed commercial incentives likely to help drive this. For example, The Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF) will support the development of technologies that enable businesses with high energy use to transition to a low-carbon future. The fund provides £315 million of funding up to 2024 for projects starting before April 2022, with minimum grants of £250,000 to support technologies such as more efficient cooling (Heat Exchange) systems.

However, given other pressures, will this focus continue unless there is a clear commercial benefit? We believe that this is unlikely and have been working closely with our clients to deliver solutions that are both sustainable and cost-effective.

Earlier this year we launched a new service designed to help companies to optimise the energy efficiency of their data centres, saving money and reducing carbon. EOS (Energy Optimisation Study) also provides relevant and accurate data that can be utilised for mandatory regulatory reporting requirements such as SECR (streamlined energy and carbon reporting) and help companies to avoid costly penalties.

The study includes an understanding of the facility utilisation and required operation, along with an assessment of the power and cooling infrastructure. Opportunities to optimise are identified along with their savings and return periods in order to identify recommendations which suit the life cycle of the facility and the IT within it.

Our decision to relaunch this service follows a recent survey by the Uptime Institute which reported an industry average PUE for 2019 among respondents was 1.67, which suggests that improvements in data centre facility energy efficiency have flattened out and even deteriorated slightly in the past two years. The survey suggests that making small low-cost amendments and optimisation with certain infrastructure can in some cases achieve energy savings of up to 20-30%.

We found this to be the case early on. One of our first clients was a global data centre real estate investment trust (REIT), which is a leading global platform provider for centres of data exchange, interconnection and colocation solutions. It appointed us to undertake an EOS to understand the opportunities for optimising a Data Hall for a key client, with the objective of reducing total power consumption and operational expenditure.

The EOS survey was undertaken in two phases. Phase one included us undertaking an assessment and identifying/quantifying opportunities for customer consideration. This included a number of opportunities across the infrastructure which equated to 20-30% operating efficiency savings. For phase two, we produced planning documentation for customer and operator approval and implemented changes including validation reporting. Importantly, this phase demonstrated that the changes would be made without risk to the availability or resilience levels.

Following the implementation phase, additional performance measures were made which confirmed the energy optimisation achieved a reduction of circa 100 kW of power equivalent to 876,000.00 kWh/year in energy and savings £10,800 per month.

In conclusion, at Keysource we are committed to supporting our clients’ sustainable goals, whatever their drivers. All eyes are on the corporate green agenda and it is imperative that businesses take the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint, among other planet-saving efforts.

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