Digital technologies can offer green solutions to different sectors of the economy. Equally important is the ‘greening’ of the digital sector itself.
It has been estimated that digital technologies account for between 5 to 9% of global electricity consumption. This is likely to increase with digitisation and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and blockchain. This may lead to problematic increase of greenhouse gas emissions if no proper action is taken.
The European Commission conducted a study on Energy-efficient Cloud Computing Technologies and Policies for an Eco-friendly Cloud Market addressing the issue of growing energy consumption due to the expansion of cloud services in Europe.
The topic of energy-efficient cloud computing has become a priority for the EU. Data centres need to become more energy efficient, reuse waste energy such as heat, and use more renewable energy sources, with a view to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030.
To meet this goal, the Commission will rely on a mix of existing instruments, reviews of existing legislation and new initiatives.
Existing instruments include:
- the Ecodesign Regulation on servers and data storage products
- the EU Code of Conduct on Data Centre Energy Efficiency
- the EU Green Public Procurement criteria for data centres, server rooms and cloud services
The Commission is also linking energy efficient data centres to policy and funding initiatives, notably through:
- the Commission Proposal for a Directive on energy efficiency (recast) introducing new elements to improve the energy efficiency and sustainability monitoring of data centers;
- The Taxonomy Regulation and its Delegated Act adopted in July 2021, which sets the framework for investments to be qualified as sustainable and whose delegated act is currently under finalisation, has a section on data centres;
- Its funding programmes: Horizon Europe, Connecting Europe Facility 2, Digital Europe programme, InvestEU and the Recovery and Resilience Facility will support the deployment of an innovative, green and secure cloud.
The Commission is currently conducting a study to address the lack of commonly accepted definitions and methods to assess the energy-efficiency, climate-neutrality and overall sustainability of data centres: 'Greening cloud computing and electronic communications services and networks: towards climate neutrality by 2050'.