Data centres — nearly zero energy consumption

The intensive use and increasing popularity of the internet and cloud computing has created a new way of communicating and storing information. The exponential growth of online data traffic is causing a rapid increase in the number and size of data centres operating continuously.

Data Centres are highly demanding in their energy consumption due to their computer components, uninterruptible power supplies, auxiliary equipment and lighting as well as cooling and ventilation systems that counter the heat dissipated by their electronic components.

This makes data centres probably the biggest power consumers per square metre. Data centres should be more energy efficient, reducing their energy demand to operate under proper conditions and sourcing the energy required to operate from on-site or nearby renewable sources.

Data Centres are responsible for about 2 % of worldwide CO2 emissions. This represents a big challenge and an opportunity, not only for the sector, which could reduce its environmental and operational costs, but also for industry in general. Industry could offer a large range of thermal insulation solutions, high performance air conditioning, ventilation through free cooling, heating systems re-using heat dissipated by electronic and computer components, etc.

The EU, under its FP7 and H2020 research programmes, has dedicated substantial investments to this subject and many projects have been funded.
Two such successful EU projects are DC4Cities and Renew IT.

In 2008, the European Union launched the Code of Conduct for Data Centres to improve data centres’ energy efficiency. This Code is a voluntary initiative managed by the JRC, which identifies key issues and describes solutions in its Best Practices document, the latest version of which was published this year.