Navigating the Path to Net Zero: Top Tips for Decarbonising Data Centres

As the urgency for climate action intensifies, data centre owners and operators are focusing on strategies to decarbonise their facilities. 

Leading initiatives include offering customers 100% renewable energy options and embracing efficient water and cooling solutions. Some are even exploring alternative fuel sources like cells and vegetable oil for backup generators. The industry is aligning with sustainability practices during construction, operation, and maintenance, with certifications like BREEAM gaining prominence.

Despite progress, there’s much work to achieve climate neutrality by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Operators are facing challenges in controlling energy consumption and carbon emissions, especially with the impending Scope 3 emissions compliance covering the entire supply chain. Failing to meet targets could result in fines and reputational damage, emphasising the need for continuous improvement.

Creating a net zero data centre

The key lies in establishing a circular and accountable IT asset lifecycle management regime. This, however, presents a challenge, particularly with manufacturers often favouring a rip-and-replace culture over modular upgrades. The lack of incentives for asset reuse or recycling further contributes to wasteful practices. To achieve a net zero data centre, a holistic approach involving manufacturers, distributors, and operators is crucial.

Decarbonising the supply chain

The manufacturing phase contributes significantly to the embodied carbon of hardware equipment. Stakeholders upstream in the supply chain must prioritise longevity and reusability. Data centre users and lease finance providers play a role in enabling longer usage periods through maintenance, refurbishment, and ethical recycling practices. Engaging licensed IT asset disposal operators can extend product lifetimes, contributing to a closed lifecycle loop.

Granular and accountable reporting

Accurate measurement and auditing of Scope 3 CO₂e lifecycles are paramount for a circular IT solution. Granular reporting tools are emerging to provide a comprehensive understanding of the environmental impact, enabling data centres to make informed decisions from equipment procurement to retention and disposal stages. This transparency supports sustainability reduction targets and informs customers about the eco-friendly practices in place.

Data centres, as the linchpin of the digital economy, have a pivotal role in championing sustainability. By advocating circular IT lifecycle management, engaging stakeholders, and leveraging innovative solutions, data centres can lead the charge in decarbonising the tech industry and contributing to a more sustainable future.

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Andrew Gomarsall speaking

Andrew Gomarsall

Executive Director

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