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European cloud industry commits to greener datacenters

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

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42 cloud providers and industry organisations have signed a pact to reduce the environmental impact of data centres at European level. The European Commission is responsible for ensuring compliance, which sets out five objectives, including the use of 100% decarbonised energy, to be achieved by 2030. The signatories do not risk any sanctions in the event of non-compliance with these rules, which remain purely incentive-based.

Developed in collaboration with the European Commission, one year after the European Green Deal, the Climate Neutral Datacenter Pact sets out five objectives to be achieved by 2030.

  1. Prove the energy efficiency of infrastructures with measurable objectives

  2. Use 100% decarbonised energy

  3. Prioritise water conservation

  4. Reuse and repair servers

  5. Look for ways to recycle heat.

The EU executive will be responsible for monitoring progress twice a year.

"Today's commitment by major players in the data industry is a promise to society and marks the first step towards realising our shared ambitions for a smart and sustainable future" Frans Timmermans, European Commissioner-designate for the EU Green Deal and Climate Change.

Twice-yearly monitoring, without risk of sanction

This text is part of the European Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the first continent to be "climate neutral" by 2050. But this pact is not binding. In other words, companies and organisations do not risk a penalty if they fail to meet any or all of the five targets.

In October 2020, the French government also adopted an interministerial roadmap that includes three areas of intervention:

  1. Developing knowledge of the digital environmental footprint

  2. Reducing the environmental footprint of digital technology

  3. Making digital technology a lever for the ecological transition.

For example, the government would like to introduce eco-conditionality for the reduced rate of the tax applicable to electricity consumed by a data centre. To benefit from this reduced rate, data centre operators will have to implement "ambitious measures" to control their environmental footprint, in terms of energy efficiency and the recovery of waste heat, in accordance with the proposal of the Citizens' Climate Convention.

Ce texte s'inscrit dans le cadre du "Green Deal" européen qui vise à faire de l'Europe le premier continent à être "climatiquement neutre" d'ici 2050. Mais ce pacte n'est pas contraignant. En d'autres termes, les entreprises et organisations ne risquent pas de sanction si elles n'atteignent pas l'un ou l'ensemble des cinq objectifs fixés.

Improved energy efficiency

Data centres are often singled out as the bad guys of sustainability, but they are actually less energy intensive than you might think. According to a study published in February 2020 by researchers in the journal Science, although the amount of computing in data centres increased fivefold between 2010 and 2018, the amount of electrical energy consumed only increased by 6% over the same period. This paradox is due to the improvement in energy efficiency, i.e. the fact that the operating state for which energy consumption is minimised, for an identical service rendered. Thus, in 2018, the electricity consumption of data centres is "205 terawatt hours of electricity", i.e. about 1% of global consumption.


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