BCS calls for a common standard for reporting power use

- bid to encourage IT industry to achieve transparency -

30 June 2011

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT believes a common standard for reporting power use, over and above simple energy costs is needed in order to enable the industry to be more transparent in its reporting of energy used in running its data centres.

These standards should highlight the sources for that energy whether generated from renewable resources or from more ‘dirty’ emission intensive sources and the proportions of each used in powering a data centre. This will then enable a more complete and consistent picture to be given in footprint and mitigation calculations, and enable consumers to judge whether the cloud services they are using really are green and sustainable.

Greenpeace recently highlighted the need for more transparency from some of the major players in the IT industry in its report ‘How Dirty is Your Data’. The report assessed the carbon impacts of cloud computing services delivered by some of the largest suppliers. As such services are set to significantly expand over the coming years it called on IT companies to take responsibility

  • to power that expansion through use of clean rather than dirty energy
  • to be more transparent as to the power mix used by their existing centres
  • to take a leadership role in their siting policies for new centres. These policies should commit the supplier to use sites with available clean sources of power or if not available either to seek the development of such sources within the locality and/or generating such sources themselves, before committing to build

Bob Crooks, Chair of BCS’ Green specialist group, explains: ‘As the Chartered Institute for IT, we fully support the need for greater transparency from the industry on the power it uses; however, common standards relating to the reporting of carbon emissions from the power used - its ‘carbon intensity’ - must first be defined. We will be looking to work with Greenpeace and others to address this issue.’

A number of tools and programs are already in place to assist and measure the energy efficiency of Data Centres, including the BCS’ own Certified Energy Efficiency Data Centre Award (CEEDA) and the more recent Maturity Model developed by the Green Grid. There are also voluntary measures such as the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres, which the Institute fully endorses having played an instrumental role in its development.

In addition, the Institute is supporting a project now being run by the Carbon Trust, World Resources Institute (WRI), Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, with the major global ICT Industry players, to develop foot-printing methods specifically for ICT, We will be seeking to expand the terms of reference for that work to address the need to have common standards to derive the power / CO2 emission factors that underpin all footprint calculations.

Bob concludes: ‘As the Chartered Institute for IT, we are already ideally placed to expand our work in this arena to endeavour to create an industry wide consensus for the development of ICT energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart grid technologies and to promote greater co-operation between all involved. This includes encouraging government, and the UK energy and ICT industries to promote increased research and development and other direct investment into the development of local and national re-newable energy sources for running cloud services and data centres, and into measuring and accounting for the mix of energy sources used in delivering these services wherever they are hosted around the world.’

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