Unpacking Energy Consumption in Data Centres

(Image by DC Studio on Freepik.com)

As the digital era progresses, the demand for data processing and storage drastically increases, straining the supporting infrastructure. This article examines the complex workings of data centre energy consumption, exploring its components, challenges, and solutions. Join us as we unpack the intricacies of energy consumption in data centres and find ways to achieve a more sustainable digital future.

Understanding Energy Consumption in Data Centres

Understanding the breakdown of energy use in data centres helps explain why energy costs continue to rise and identify places where energy-efficient upgrades are necessary. Data centre energy use is usually divided into three primary categories: Information Technology (IT), cooling systems, and auxiliary infrastructure. Data centre operators can concentrate on these systems when aiming to lower energy usage and reduce environmental impact.

IT equipment consists of storage devices, servers, networking equipment, and other hardware that processes and stores data. This equipment tends to use the most energy in data centres because it needs the power to run and uphold peak performance levels.

IT equipment operations are one of the main reasons data centres generate a lot of heat. Cooling systems are needed to ensure a constantly stable operating environment. Cooling systems include liquid cooling technologies and air conditioning units. These systems use a lot of energy, which adds to data centres’ energy consumption levels.

Data centres depend on auxiliary infrastructure like backup generator units, lighting systems, and power distributors. Although this infrastructure doesn’t use much energy on its own, it consumes a great deal of energy collectively.

Factors Contributing to Energy Consumption

Server Utilisation: Inefficiencies and Optimisation

Data centres waste much energy when servers are used inefficiently, such as underutilisation and overprovisioning. Underutilised servers use unnecessary energy, which simply increases operational costs and energy consumption. These inefficiencies can be alleviated by improving server use through workload consolidation, virtualisation, and dynamic resource allocation. Data centres can be more energy-efficient and use resources better by optimising server deployments and effectively balancing workloads.

Ageing Infrastructure: Impacts on Energy Efficiency

The ageing data infrastructure causes energy efficiency problems because of its outdated technologies and designs. Older facilities use more energy per unit of computing power because they don’t have current hardware, energy-efficient cooling systems, and efficient power distribution. Data centres that upgrade to new and energy-efficient infrastructure spend less on energy costs and have better overall efficiency. These upgrades will make data centres more sustainable and lower immediate and long-term operational costs.

Geographical Location: Climate and Energy Requirements

A data centre’s geographical location greatly influences its energy requirements. A data centre in a warm climate spends more energy on cooling systems, while one in a cooler climate uses the natural environment for cooling and reduces energy use. Organisations that site data centres must consider climate conditions and energy availability for optimal energy use and minimal environmental impact. They also use renewable energy sources to lower their dependence on traditional energy grids and become more sustainable.

Sustainable Solutions and Innovations

  •       Energy-Efficient Hardware: The increasing demand for data processing is driving data centres to prioritise innovations in server technology and become more energy-efficient. The newest servers have energy-saving features like solid-state drives (SSDs) and low-power processors. These features lower overall energy usage by improving performance and using less power. When data centres use energy-efficient hardware, they can meet the increasing computational demands and lower their environmental impact.
  •       Renewable Energy Sources: More and more data centres are switching to renewable energy sources, like wind, solar, and hydroelectric power. When data centres use clean energy sources, they drastically lower their reliance on fossil fuels and decrease their carbon footprint. By investing in renewable energy alternatives, data centres can become more sustainable and help to reach the UK’s renewable energy targets. Data centres that use renewable energy sources support environmental goals and show that they are committed to sustainability practices.
  •       Efficient Cooling Technologies: Data centres usually use high-energy cooling systems, but there are new technologies that provide more sustainable options. Free air cooling lowers data centres’ need for mechanical cooling methods by using the surrounding air to control the temperature. Liquid immersion cooling systems submerge IT equipment in a non-conductive liquid and get rid of heat better than air-based cooling systems. These alternative cooling technologies reduce energy use and increase the sustainability of data centre operations.

(Image by DC Studio on Freepik.com)

Regulatory Measures in the UK

Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme

This compulsory program is designed to motivate organisations to lower their carbon emissions. This scheme states that large energy users, like data centres, must buy carbon emission allowances. Because companies have financial implications because of their carbon emissions, they are inspired to become more energy efficient and lower their environmental impact. Data centres can adopt energy-saving measures like investing in renewable energy sources, improving cooling systems, and updating energy-efficient equipment to meet CRC requirements.

Renewable Energy Targets

The UK government has set formidable targets to increase the energy generated by renewable sources. These targets are in place to lower carbon emissions and move toward more sustainable energy infrastructure. Data centre operators must invest in renewable energy projects to reach these targets, like buying renewable energy credits and installing on-site solar panels. Using renewable energy sources reduces data centres’ carbon footprint and coincides with national sustainability goals.

Energy Efficiency Standards

Data centre operators must comply with various energy efficiency standards, like the EU (European Union) Code of Conduct for Data Centres and the BSI (British Standards Institution) PAS 2060 specification for carbon neutrality. They give guidelines on becoming more energy efficient and minimising environmental impact. Data centres that follow these standards show that they are committed to sustainability and get recognised for their efforts to lessen climate change. The best way to comply with these standards is to use energy-efficient technologies, frequently monitor energy use, and improve infrastructure management.

Future Trends and Emerging Technologies in Data Centre Management

Data centre operators can drastically improve energy efficiency and become part of a more sustainable digital infrastructure in the future. They must stay on top of the latest trends and invest in the newest technologies.

  •       Edge computing is becoming increasingly popular. When data processing happens closer to the source, the strain on centralised data centres is lowered, and energy requirements are reduced.
  •       There is a need for development in energy storage technologies like supercapacitors and advanced batteries. It increases the potential for better energy management and the use of renewable energy sources. This corresponds with the UK’s sustainability commitments.
  •       There is much potential in the continuous research into novel cooling technologies for improving data centre cooling system efficiency and lowering energy use. These technologies include liquid immersion cooling and phase-change materials.
  •       Blockchain technology can improve energy efficiency with transparent tracking and trading of renewable energy certificates. It fosters accountability and motivates data centres to start using renewable energy sources.


Data centres can lower their environmental footprint and meet the requests of the digital age by adopting sustainable solutions and sticking to regulatory standards. We must work towards an energy-efficient and sustainable future for the digital infrastructure that drives our world.






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