Adapting data centres to meet the net zero challenge

Data centre developers will need to demonstrate policies that address climate change, with power saving and a commitment to net zero a cornerstone of all future builds, says Ed Ansett.

The climate crisis agenda is placing all businesses under pressure to prove their sustainability credentials for every activity. Banks are looking for climate impact reports and policies before lending. Investors are seeking viable data to measure the value of ESG actions, with a particular focus on verifiable strategies that tackle climate change and cut carbon emissions. 

The amount of information being sought will be huge. It will span everything from financial reporting to providing valid data on how each and every operation sources energy and uses electricity. 

For example, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation has set up an International Sustainability Standards Board to develop global sustainability reporting standards. Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, says on its homepage: “Our investment conviction is that climate risk is investment risk, and that integrating climate and sustainability considerations into investment processes can help investors build more resilient portfolios and achieve better long-term, risk-adjusted returns. We believe that society is on the cusp of a transformational change towards sustainability.”

Businesses are being warned to step up. Large companies are hiring or promoting individuals to the role of chief sustainability officer. It’s a big job. 

Writing in Forbes recently, Oracle’s CSO pointed to technology innovations as holding some of the answers to achieving net zero. Whether it’s through more efficient light bulbs, using AI tracking and reducing power use across vast built environments or developing tools that help firms comply with climate regulations, technology is vital. 

Data centres don’t stand alone

For businesspeople outside the data centre industry, all they know is their data lives in the cloud and they want that cloud to be carbon neutral. They demand that none of their data, including the sustainability data that will be used to inform decision making, is stored in carbon spewing, energy-wasting data centres. 

For users and customers, the information (data) on where, how, and how much power is consumed inside the data centre is suddenly becoming important. For those inside the data centre business, as we begin the journey to become carbon net zero, this presents big challenges. 

We are currently just another business sector reacting to price and supply volatility in the energy markets and looking for solutions. Yet in the short to medium term, the data centre sector may fast become an integrated part of the energy supply chain. 

Some data centre operators are reacting quickly to the carbon issue and citing grid integration as a USP. Today, firms like are providing valuable data on grid power system integration. Lancium says it is building data centres in Texas that will act as “controllable load resources”, where “the net effect on the electrical system is carbon negative”. 

Can technology make data centres adaptable to net zero aims?

So, where to start? Delivering power to the workload for secure uptime remains the critical role of a data centre. Ordinarily, the infrastructure used to ensure the design purpose is met is fixed, inflexible and wasteful. Adaptability, while clearly and increasingly desirable, has been elusive to date.

Enter, adaptable redundant power (ARP), an innovative power design technology that enables existing data centre power topologies to overcome the challenges associated with fixed systems and deliver flexibility that addresses waste and stranded capacity while ensuring the availability of critical services. 

For developers of new data centres basing power designs on ARP, the technology helps bake in energy efficiency by bringing flexibility to power topologies. This creates responsive power chains that direct power to ensure IT workloads operate at maximum energy efficiency. With measurable results.

Data centres will be sustainable. Data centre developers seeking investment (and permission) to build the vast campuses to run the 21st century digital economy will need to demonstrate policies that address climate change. 

Whatever we build in the future or change in existing data centres is going to be measured against sustainability credentials. The climate crisis demands long term solutions and as we plan for 2030 only those that stand up to scrutiny will be accepted. 

Ed Ansett is founder and chairman of i3 Solutions Group.