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Sustainable and renewable energy infrastructures critical to curbing impact of rising energy costs

Sustainable and renewable energy infrastructures critical to curbing impact of rising energy costs

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As Europe looks to fire up coal power plants as an alternative to the increase in natural gas prices, atNorth’s Chief Commercial Officer, Gisli Kr, warns of the detrimental impact this will have on CO2 emissions globally and argues that this is not the answer, but merely plastering over the cracks without looking at the root cause of these problems.

How do you feel the rising energy costs are going to impact customers of traditional data centres and what will the knock-on effect be for businesses?

2022 has seen record growth in global energy prices in a way we have never seen – this will absolutely have a tremendous impact on businesses across the UK and central Europe who rely on fossil fuels to power their heating and cooling. While the focus may first lie on Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs) who are often hit hardest first, the fact is that the energy caps will impact businesses of all size worldwide.

The massive surge in global Internet traffic and rate at which businesses across the globe are accelerating Digital Transformation initiatives has put massive pressure on our data centres. Already, various analyses estimate that data centres account for 1-3% of global electricity use, with digital technology specifically representing 4% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. This is a very serious consideration for global business – one that must be addressed with a more sustainable approach.

How critical is the ability to tap into a sustainable infrastructure in the midst of these soaring energy prices? 

It is in fact beyond critical – as this crisis is unfortunately showing. We have been hearing about how some countries in Europe are looking to fire up coal power plants again to help see them through this massive crisis.

These soaring energy prices will have a real lasting impact on the sustainability agenda. While businesses may feel unaffected right now due to their ability to bulk buy or hedge against rising energy prices, the reality is that this is not a short-term problem.

Sustainability is an issue that our generation and future generations will have to continually manage – it’s clear that the UK and Europe need to change their mindset, to be clearer and more aggressive in their actions towards moving away from fossil fuels to avoid being – quite literally – priced out of the market.

Regions such as the Nordics are in a unique position to offer a sustainable infrastructure due to their use of renewable energy and longstanding government initiatives that aim to better protect the planet. To meet today’s data processing demands, the solution must be centred on these regions that can offer renewable energy sources cost efficiently while also wasting less energy on cooling, as the Nordics do already.

One of the biggest questions asked repeatedly today is whose responsibility is sustainability – individuals, business or government?

As it’s been said, there is no Planet B and so we must all play our part in helping to future-proof our Earth. Having said that, we also need to understand that some have bigger roles to play where real differences can be made and seen. For example, businesses are wholly responsible for re-evaluating their business and IT operations to understand where savings can be made in light of these soaring prices and what the easiest course of action will be. While it can be difficult to move physical operations such as people and factories, migrating IT operations to sites that have sustainable infrastructures in place is a much more viable option to counter these rising costs.

I hope that this is the much-needed catalyst to drive more sustainable data and IT practices across global business and government today. Sustainability needs to be prioritised by both our governments and businesses – unfortunately the growing threat of climate change hasn’t been enough to make lasting changes, but the cost savings and operational efficiencies speak for themselves.

What role does the Nordic region play in helping businesses across the UK and Europe to curb these rising prices?

The Nordics have the necessary renewable infrastructures, colder climates, government-backed sustainability initiatives, a drive for innovation and a surplus in talented workforce. These countries already have the infrastructures in place to support access to renewable energy, not to mention they are ideally located with great connectivity to support the growth in digitalisation.

While we will undoubtedly see many businesses migrate their IT operations to these regions, there is also a massive opportunity for Nordic countries to support sustainability initiatives for regions across the UK and Europe, and to provide connectivity and direct data ‘pipe’ access to the Nordics for these countries.

What key data centre initiatives do you see as sustainably crucial for the next decade?

We design our data centres from the ground up so that we can offer the best energy efficiency, but at the same time use the least amount of equipment to ensure the safe operation of the data centre and thus lower the carbon footprint of the data centre. We also choose to use sustainable building materials across our sites to further help reduce our overall carbon footprint.

Furthermore, our service offerings can be tailored to include the most cost-effective solution based on volume and computing power needs of individual customers. Our modular approach and hybrid data halls mean we can help our clients cater to evolving market changes and customer needs whether that be for high, low density, colocation services or to fit specific cooling requirements. This is becoming increasingly paramount for businesses today from both a cost efficiency and environmental impact point of view.

In addition, perhaps one of the most important considerations for the next decade will be centred on data centres’ ability to innovate. For us, with sustainability sitting right at our core, we have been working hard to innovate the way in which our energy outputs are reused. Our newest site in Stockholm operates on 100% renewable energy and also uses efficient heat recovery for both air-cooled and liquid-cooled IT infrastructures. This allows all the residual heat from the data centre to be recycled through Stockholm Exergi, Stockholm’s energy company, where the excess heat generated from the new data centre can then heat up to 20,000 apartments.

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