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How much carbon does my Data Center produce?

By Tiny Haynes | September 16, 2021 | 0 Comments

Sustainability is now becoming one of the most talked about themes at the board level, with taxation penalising Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in some countries around the world and a potential for it to be rolled out to others over the next few years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a “Code Red for humanity” report on the 9th August 2021, further bringing attention to the impact of GHGs on the Earth.
In The Road to a Net Zero Data Center note, we discussed the steps that can be taken by I&O leaders to address the potential impact of GHG emissions on their DCs, but how do you calculate the amount of GHG emissions you are responsible for? Let’s remind ourselves of the emissions terminology:
Scope Description
1 Direct emissions from diesel generators or similar on-site generation capacity.
Some refrigerants.
2 Emissions from grid electricity generation used for data center operation, including air conditioning and power distribution.
3 Manufacturing and supply chain emissions associated with data center equipment and services (including cloud and colocation maintenance), as well as end-of-life disposal.

DC operators should be aware of all 3 scopes as they are relevant to calculating the carbon impact of your DC operation, although the biggest impact comes from Scope 2 and 3 emissions.
To address the carbon footprint, the table below gives a guide to the carbon footprint of each electrical supply.
Scope Energy Source Carbon emission Note
1 Diesel Generator 9.2 Kg per Kw/hr Monthly generator checks contribute this much CO2 into the atmosphere assuming 2 litres of diesel is consumed
2 Coal Fired Power station supply 1Kg of CO2 per Kw/hr Source: US Energy Information Administration

2 Gas Fired Power station supply 0.4Kg of CO2 per Kw/hr Source: US Energy Information Administration

2 Solar, Wind and Nuclear Negligible (Operation of power generation. There will be associated carbon footprints through production techniques

No real figures exist for calculating scope 3 emissions as these carry a large number of variables. Expect some work to be done on this in the future.
The next factor in considering carbon production is working out your DC’s PUE – In real time if possible. Old DCs can have a PUE score of between 1.6 and 2, with more modern DCs scoring 1.15 and 1.2. The lower the PUE rate, the more efficient the DC, the lower the carbon footprint.
Action point 1
Verify your energy supply comes from nuclear or renewable source to minimise your carbon footprint
Action Point 2
Minimise you use of diesel generators where possible to reduce CO2 emissions
Action Point 3
Improve your DC efficiency by investing in free cooling or operating at a higher temperature (within manufacturer’s recommended tolerances). Ensure your PUE calculation is a regular exercise, ideally real time, to get the best picture of your DC efficiency.
We cover the sustainability aspect of the cloud providers in the note already referenced.
Gartner is on hand to discuss these and further courses of action to meet your organizations ESG goals.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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