How Cap & Trade May Impact the Data Center

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Steve Yellen is Vice President of Marketing and Development for Aperture Technologies, an Emerson Network Power brand. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, and has authored numerous white papers and technical articles on data center management.

STEVE YELLEN
Emerson Network
Power

As governments around the world continue to explore and implement carbon emissions standards and carbon reduction commitments, many companies will be required to participate in auction-based carbon emissions trading schemes that are designed to provide economic and reputational incentives for achieving reductions in emissions. In many cases, those companies that do not reduce emissions could face financial penalties in the form of emissions credits they will need to purchase.

For example, in the United Kingdom, the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme will begin in April 2010 to promote energy efficiency and help reduce carbon emissions. This carbon cap and trade program requires companies in the UK, including those headquartered in the country and foreign companies with UK subsidiaries, to forecast their energy usage, purchase carbon allowances from the government and monitor actual usage against forecast emissions.

In a report issued at the end of 2009, research firm IDC predicted that there will be a renewed focus on reducing CO2 emissions, at both national and international levels. The firm suggested that by 2011 all G-20 nations will mandate companies to report carbon footprints.

What This Means for the Data Center
While these developments are not specifically aimed at data centers, they will impact how data centers operate and the amount of energy used. As a result, data centers will need to implement mechanisms for monitoring, managing and reporting carbon emissions.

By improving their data center management processes, organizations can gain a comprehensive view of energy consumption and identify opportunities for improving efficiency. This increased discipline and maturity to data center management will help uncover carbon reduction opportunities and allow better management and tracking of data center carbon reduction commitments.

Improving data center management maturity and processes can support data center carbon reduction commitments by helping uncover and identify:

  • The amount of currently produced carbon in a facility, as well as the total future amount
  • The amount of carbon credits/allowances needed to be purchased for any given year to meet business demands
  • How close a facility is to its carbon allowance threshold and a projected time when it might exceed it
  • Past carbon production over any given time period
  • Projected carbon production tied to any data center expansions or new requirements
  • Non-productive servers that can be scheduled for decommissioning and the impact it would have on carbon production
  • Technology refresh areas where older devices might be replaced with new higher-efficiency equipment

While the United States has yet to enact a carbon cap and trade program, the government is heading in this direction. In late 2009, the U.S. government announced reporting requirements for greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, recognizing that they pose a hazard to human health. What this means is that the EPA is now taking steps to regulate them. Smart organizations will be ready when regulation begins.

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