Adoption of liquid immersion cooling in data centres can help states to achieve Net Zero targets
You may have heard the phrase “data is the new oil.” However, unlike oil, many often think that since data does not appear in physical form, it has no environmental impact.
This is a misconception, anybody who understands how information technology and more so data transformation works will tell you that the “new oil” is as dirty as the fossil fuels and the tragedy is that its use will keep on increasing day and day out. Different sectors are relying on it for efficiency and effectiveness. Digital transformation is happening everywhere, meaning demand for data storage and other related activities will keep on rising.
Energy demands will keep on rising
International Energy Agency estimates that data centres use more than 200 terawatts, a figure that accounts for one per cent of the electricity demand in the world. In terms of carbon emission, this consumption accounts for 0.3% of the global emission. With the explosion of big data and the growth of computing needs the figures will rise fast. Also, bearing in mind that data centres are only a part of digital transformation, the whole IT (information technology) sector will in the future be the greatest consumer of energy, and if no measures are taken its share of global greenhouse gases emission may be the highest in a few years.
What role can data centres play?
Looking at the Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs), one cannot fail to recognize that energy sourced from fossil fuels will be with us in the next thirty to fifty years or so. Big polluters such as India, China, and Australia have been accused of setting less ambitious targets. The countries which also rank as the biggest producers of coal have stated that they will reach net-zero emissions between 2050 and 2070. This means they will continue producing coal for consumption at home and abroad, although at a gradually phased pace. With coal being one of the big polluters, it means that attempts to stop global warming may not yield much in the short run. As an important sector, the information technology sector and more so data centre operators can play a part in ensuring that energy sourced from fossil fuels is gradually reduced with a target of total elimination within a shorter period.
One way to achieve this would be leading by example; having a policy in place stating that data centres should be exclusively powered by renewable energy as well as insisting on the adoption of technologies that reduce energy consumption such as using liquid immersion cooling. Some actors in this field are already doing this, their data centres are run using renewable energy. They have also led to the adoption of effective techniques such as liquid immersion cooling. Such a policy will go a long way in setting the pace towards the total elimination of dirty energy. If tech companies can lead the way, the whole world will follow. The power yielded by these companies is enormous; they can change the world. It is encouraging to see that big tech companies have already taken up that challenge; they have built large data centres which are powered using clean energy. The rest of the business fraternity can follow suit, embrace clean energy. This will go a long way in helping the states especially the big polluters meet their net-zero targets. Such an action will have gone a long way in saving the world from extinction. It is our last chance to turn around a situation that is already turning ugly. All have a role to play, however, it will take some to lead and show the way. That responsibility now lies with information technology companies, with data centres shielding the huge burden.