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Climate negotiations in Paris – what does this mean for energy efficiency?

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Discussions in Paris at the end of 2015 saw 195 nations reaching a landmark accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to reduce the most drastic effects of climate change. This accord, changes the dynamic compared to previous agreements, as action is required in some form from every country regardless of whether they are rich or poor. So, what does this mean from an energy efficiency perspective for commercial operations, such as data centres? 


While many data centres have actively being pursuing energy efficiency by measuring and responding to power usage effectiveness (PUE), the challenge is how to become energy efficient while also allowing for redundancy and built in headroom.  From an energy conservation perspective small obvious steps can be made, including those that require behaviour changes rather than hardware enhancements, by encouraging more efficient energy use or replacing traditional bulbs with LEDs.

However ultimately, the goal is to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. This is where a long-term energy strategy should be an integral part of a company’s overall strategy. This needs to encompass critical decisions on energy investments, while avoiding energy risks. While many industries have been adopting a passive approach, potentially more and more industries will be looking to follow data centres lead, by determining a long-term energy strategy which will also maximise profits.

As Martin Pearce, sales director at Critical Power says, “Energy efficiency is really a question of reducing energy supply costs in buildings and facilities without compromising business operations.  Really, the availability and service life of the equipment and the ease of use should either remain the same or be improved; with users having permanent access to the energy they need.”

So, with today’s technologies, how do businesses go about becoming more energy efficient? As alluded to, a long-term energy strategy is hugely beneficial, but practically this is more about an amalgamation or combination of approaches.  As an absolute given, this should include UPS and generator surveys to ensure the operation is optimised to run efficiently, while offering a comprehensive power continuity plan for your site.  Exploring the environmental impact and any heat output considerations is also paramount in improving an operations overall energy efficiency.  While determining critical issues that need to be addressed could involve exploring the battery management versus the latest technologies through to the system’s loading and potential for expansion.  Electricity usage and heat output are also good indicators as often older, oversized systems take up valuable space and capacity resulting in poor operating efficiencies and higher electricity bills.  A regular maintenance and service plan would furthermore ensure the outfit is operating at its optimum.

In addition, whether you want to save money or cut down emissions there are a number of manufacturers who provide top quality cable and energy management systems such as Marshall-Tufflex and their Voltis energy saving units. These can reduce carbon emissions by up to 20%. By improving your voltage optimisation, your equipment functions as normal, but the kit saves on electricity, money and carbon emissions, so you can benefit from a payback typically within three years.  This is an ideal way of investing in green energy, if you don’t want to buy new equipment or compromise on quality. There is obviously also the option to explore alternative energy products, including grid tied inverters & PV panels.

It will be interesting to see what the output from the climate conference in Paris will be. Really, the reality is that data centres have long been focused on energy efficiency regardless of the climate discussions, but the pressure to address this for most industries could shift the focus from being principally a financial cost-saving one to becoming even more of an environmental one.

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