Doug Specht speaks to RTÉ about the environmental impacts of data

1 December 2022

Senior lecturer, Doug Specht, was interviewed by Irelands RTÉ about the impact of data and data centres on the environment. The article, by is part of RTÉ’s Brainstorm series. The article notes that energy consumption by data centres in the EU28 increased from 53.9 to 76.8 terawatt-hours on average (TWh/a), over the period 2010-2018. Furthermore, that a November 2020 study from the European Commission (EC) on the need for greener data centres, showed that, at the current trajectory, energy consumption of data centres in EU Member States is expected to increase from 2.7% of the electricity demand in 2018 to 3.2% by 2030.

Responding to this Specht notes that there are places where data centres, while still consuming large amounts of energy, are able to off-set some of this impact through using the heat generated by data centres for other purposes. He says that “Stockholm has some interesting projects, with data centres supplying around 10% of total heating demand,” He goes on to point out that “first, this is a good capture of otherwise wasted energy and having data centres near urban centres actually makes a lot of sense for lots of reasons – putting everything in Iceland or other cold climates is not a direct solution. Secondly, if this is run on renewables to begin with, then you are really reaping benefits across the board.”

Later in the article, Specht states that “data centres are keen to ensure they are as efficient as possible, both in their processing of data and in their cooling systems. This is as much about reducing costs and improving speeds of performance as it is about reducing energy consumption,” He concludes that, “either way, as more people connect to the internet globally, and the more data that is stored and processed digitally, the more the demand will increase. Those who are trying to be more sustainable position themselves near to renewable energies – this is good, provided there is enough renewable energy”.

The full article can be read on RTÉ Brainstorm.


Photo by imgix on Unsplash

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