Firms Look To Data Centres For Carbon Savings

Carbon-concious businesses are increasingly turning to the data centre to meet their emission targets

As the government’s mandatory Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme begins to bite, organisations are increasingly turning their focus on data centres, to meet its strict emission levels.

So says new research from data centre solutions specialist Sentrum, which surveyed 100 senior IT professionals who are responsible for the data centre operations of their business.

The report suggests that UK-based organisations are increasingly focusing on the data centre in an effort to rapidly reduce their carbon footprints, because the data centre is perceived to be the area where the most effective results can be realised.

Starting To Bite

Businesses are now six months into the first year of compliance with the CRC scheme, after the government resisted calls to scrap it and replace it with a green tax. Instead, it opted to simplify it.

This is despite the fact that CRC is reportedly deeply unpopular with British businesses, which view it as a ‘stealth tax’.

Despite the unpopularity of the CRC scheme, Sentrum’s research found that 62 percent of businesses surveyed said that they are now proactively measuring the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of their data centre projects.

Nearly three quarters (72 percent) said they have set targets for power usage and associated power cost reductions. It seems that this figure is higher still for those who outsource their data centre space requirements (79 percent), compared to those that do not (55 percent).

But the survey highlighted the slow progress being made on the energy-saving front, with the survey finding only 29 percent average power cost reductions were achieved by British firms over the last 12 months.

And worryingly 13 percent of companies admitted they did not see any reduction in costs against their targets over the same time period.

Advice Ignored

“Data centre operators are obviously well placed to offer specialist advice about how to maximise energy efficiencies,” said Franek Sodzawiczny, CDO and Co-Founder at Sentrum. “However it appears that whilst such providers work to share information and guidance, which in turn is also considered to be increasingly important by companies, the advice is not always acted upon which surprises me.”

The research found that 75 percent of those companies don’t follow the advice given completely, if at all.

Unfortunately there seems to be an element of buck passing here, with 95 percent of those businesses that outsource their data centre believing that their provider should be more proactive about offering advice. Indeed, 36 percent of companies think that specialist knowledge is an essential role for their data centre provider.

“Data centre operators need to focus on reassuring companies that the advice they are giving is in fact impartial, reliable and will help to deliver the efficiency savings being demanded,” said Sodzawiczny. He cited the fact that Sentrum, for example, appointed a Group Energy Officer who is dedicated to keeping on top of this very complex subject.

CRC Scheme

“In my opinion, the rigours of the CRC scheme require expert knowledge that not all companies will have access to in-house,” stressed Sodzawiczny. “It makes sense that identifying and developing a business partnership with an organisation that can offer such key expertise will be essential going forward. Particularly if companies are keen to work within, or better still reduce, their emission allowances.”

In August, the Environment Agency (EA) revealed that it had achieved a significant reduction in its CO2 emissions and it urged other large organisations to improve their environmental reporting and performance.

It is thought that 95 percent of large businesses in the UK are now complying with the CRC scheme. Organisations must register for the scheme if they used at least 6,000 MWh (Mega Watt hours) of half-hourly electricity during 2008, equivalent to an annual electricity bill of about £500,000.

Organisations will start to be charged for their carbon output in fiscal year 2011/12.

In April the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) slammed the scheme as adding to the cost of business. It said it believed the scheme “lacks credibility and has lost businesses’ trust” and should be scrapped.