ICT and Green

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions ICT is one of the biggest contributors, across the globe, and is increasing at an exponential rate as the rest of the world starts to catch up to north America and Europe in its use of ICT technology (home computers, cell phones, servers, data centers etc.). In 2007 the global total was approx 2% of all CO2 emissions. It is probably much closer to 5% now. Out of that total the biggest contributors are commercial and corporate data centers, they make up, according to Gartner% of all ICT emissions

Gartner Says Data Centres Account for 23 Per Cent of Global ICT CO2 Emissions Analysts to Examine Green Issues Including Data Centre Design and Cooling at Gartner's Data Center Summit 2007, 22-24 October 2007, London

Egham, UK, October 11, 2007 — Data centres that require energy to run servers and provide cooling account for almost a quarter of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from information and communications technology (ICT), according to Gartner. Gartner’s estimate follows its finding in April 2007 that the ICT industry produces 2 per cent of global CO2 emissions, placing it on a par with the aviation industry.

So as a business owner you need to take into account just how efficient your own data center, or data center provider is. Not only that you need to look at the source of power to that data center. Is it coal, natural gas, diesel, or a green source such as hydro-electric? Below is a table showing the difference between a commercial data center located in West Virginia and one located in British Columbia, Canada. The former is 100% coal fired generation and the latter 98% (or more) Hydro and 2% (or less) natural gas.

State / Province gCO2eq /Kwh gCO2eq/Kwh mTCO2eq /year 40MW Datacenter CO2 credit cost at $20/mT/yr yearly cost for 40MW data center at Industrial Power Rates $ /yr power cost for a 200W server (1.752Mw) total Data center power and CO2 cost for a 200W server / yr (PUE 3) total Data center power and CO2 cost for a 200W server / yr (PUE 1.2)
WV 1055 1 36981 $7,393,630 $346,020 $69 $540 $136
BC 17 0.017 5956 $119,136 $436,238 $87.25 $267 $105
*PUE is Power Usage Effectiveness – a ratio of the amount of power in total the datacenter uses to the amount needed to run ICT equipment. The closer to 1 the more efficient the datacenter is.. Most commercial datacenters today are in the 2.5 to 3 range which means they need 2.5 to 3 watts incoming power to operate 1 watt of ICT equipment, very inefficient.

In the table above you can see that in BC the equivalent of 17 grams of CO2 are created for every Kilowatt hour of power generated. In West Virginia it is 1055, that’s 62 times as much! With carbon at $20 per metric ton that makes a huge difference, a $7,274,494.00/yr difference in operating costs for a 40MW datacenter and you can bet that will be passed along to its customers in higher power rates or higher square foot rates. One way or another customers will make up that shortfall while at the same time doing nothing to lower their own carbon footprint. So, how do you solve this problem?

With today’s high speed fiber networks and new lossless Ethernet technologies, the answer is simple; distance truly is irrelevant when you have good network in place so find a datacenter that has a better footprint. Find one powered by hydro-electric only, with a low PUE and a focus on being as green as they can be. I say powered by hydro because to date solar and wind power is not suitable for datacenter due to the varying amounts of power that they produce throughout the day and night. Datacenters need steady, uninterrupted power which those renewable sources cannot at this time provide (more on how they can fit in coming in a future post). Look for a provider that is not only uses green power but is actively seeking ways to produce carbon credits you can use. A double win as it were; lower your overall costs and get salable credits at the same time. Put your ICT infrastructure where it will do you the greenest good.

Beware of the companies that say they buy carbon offsets to cover up for their dirty power as not only is the carbon offset industry ripe with fraudulent operators but there is also a great deal of misleading claims. As an example, REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) schemes where people are paid to not cut down trees are not the same as schemes where trees are planted. REDD does not lower the amount of GG in the atmosphere, it is maintaining the status quo, which we have already determined needs lowering, but they are marketed as such. Even if the offset project is not a fraud there is still the problem that all you are doing is maintaining status quo – if your ITC use creates 200mT of carbon a year you buy 200mT of offsets to cover it. That is the status quo, not green, and this is the single biggest problem with typical offsets, they do nothing to lower atmospheric concentrations of GHCs.


RackForce Networks Inc. is the leading provider of green datacenter facilities and products in North America. Situated in Kelowna, BC Canada, the safest and best place in North America to build a datacenter (according to IBM) it's datacenters run on Hydroelectric power and through advanced technology reduce carbon footprints to 1/50th of it's competition.

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