Internet energy use to double – ‘but data centres aren’t ready’

Research suggests that data centres are not sustainable enough to deal with online energy demands without emissions targets suffering

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More efficient data centres are necessary if national governments are to manage the hiking energy demands of the internet.

That’s the verdict of new research from the University of Sussex Business School, claiming that the current growth in internet and online services poses a real threat to energy security and worldwide emissions targets.

Online services currently account for 10% of global electricity demand, with this expected to double by the end of the decade.

The report states that data centres must have higher levels of energy efficiency and leverage circular economy concepts to combat the ‘out-of-control’ energy demands.

It also suggests a limitation on the demands of the grid and the environmental impact; by charging heavy peak time rates to data centres who don’t use renewable energy to operate their centres and providing credits to those that do.

According to the research, data centres have the fastest-growing carbon footprint in the tech space and the authors are calling on policymakers globally to enact more laws and incentives for operators to become more sustainable.

They warn that if action is not taken it could have a devastating impact on global emissions targets and the environment.

Lead researcher Professor Benjamin Sovacool said: “With the number of Internet-connected devices now surpassing the number of people on the planet and the energy demands of the sector growing at an incredible rate, ICT has become as much a threat to averting climate catastrophe as it is a ray of hope.

“The global growth in ICT emissions is currently unsustainable, unchecked and represents a threat to energy security and climate stability.”