Making data centres greener: Bureau of Energy Efficiency should come out with standards and labelling for it

Earlier this year, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech, proposed the development of a policy to enable private sector players to build data centre parks in India. This is not the first time that India has sought to regulate the establishment of data centres.

Previously, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeITY) sought to establish data centres at the state level to further the National eGovernance Plan and released comprehensive guidelines to regulate the same.

A key concern addressed inadequately by these guidelines is the ecological impact of data centres. In this article, I explain the adverse environmental impact of data centres and explore the need for the upcoming policy to institute mechanisms that monitor such impact.

A ‘data centre park’ is a facility housing multiple data centres that cater for the operational and organisational needs of data-driven companies. Data centres are physical warehouses responsible for the storing and dissemination of data for information services. They contain computers, network communications and storage systems, and power systems that keep the centres up and running. In essence, data centres house the IT capabilities required to run data businesses.

Requiring extensive infrastructure to power and cool these systems, data centres consume vast amounts of electricity—with Greenpeace noting that the industry’s electricity consumption in China may exceed Australia’s total electricity consumption for 2018 by 2023.

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