Data centers, facilities that store and process data, are the emerging players of European energy landscape and come at the crossroads of the European Commission’s upcoming Energy Efficiency Package and the Free Flow of Data initiative expected by late 2016.
The vast increase in the generation of data and its central role in the digital age means that data centers are more important than ever before. The number of data centers, is expected to grow exponentially according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), as more people get access to Internet, use emails, build web pages, join online social networks and use the cloud for storing files and pictures. With increasing consumer awareness of the data’s carbon footprint, and what is labelled by some NGOs as ‘dirty data’, data centers are starting to become more sustainable. Could they serve as a microcosm of the broader energy transition that virtually all industries will have to undergo? Will Europe set the right framework for this transition?
In this snapshot and following a roundtable discussion with business and policy makers we offer an overview of how data centers are responding to the call for ‘clean data’ by making data center growth more sustainable and analyse how to address the question systematically through collaboration with renewable energy producers, utilities and regulators.
Ivan Požgaj and Charlotte Nørlund-Matthiessen are consultants and Ivana Jemelkova is Senior Director at FTI Consulting Strategic Communications in Brussels.