A record number of data centres has strengthened the number of businesses attaining a carbon neutral certificate last year, according to an ABC report; far outweighing the mandatory offset mechanism as the private sector leads the charge toward sustainability.
As it stands, data centres in Australia alone are estimated to use as much energy as 28 million households on a daily basis.
Interestingly, “the voluntary carbon neutral program is offsetting about 2.5-million tonnes of CO2 each year, [while] the government’s mandatory offset mechanism accounted for less than 0.5m-tonnes of CO2 in 2016-17.” According to Slezak.
The rate at which data centres are sucking up energy is also a key consideration moving into the future. By some estimates, computing energy will account for 50% of the world’s energy demand within a decade.
Simon Cooper, CEO of NextDC, Australia’s largest operator of data centres made his point clear that we are already reliant on data centres for our critical infrastructure, as well as online personal habits.
“Whether that’s the photos that you store, traffic system allowing the city to work, train systems, medical information - everything we do is increasingly dependent on servers that are ‘in the cloud’. And those servers sit in data centres,” he said.
“If everyone hosting servers in Sydney data centre bought carbon natural server space, that would be equivalent to 10,000 typical homes doing the same.”
“It’s now got to the point where if you’re not helping the environment…then you might not be a business we want to work with.” Mr Cooper said, adding that massive businesses like Google and Microsoft are demanding more environmental sensibilities from companies it works with, as well as its employees.
“The voluntary program is creating three times more activity in the carbon offsetting space than the mandatory program is at the moment.”
“There was no question of its benefit to the business… Our shareholders are increasingly [asking if] the businesses they are investing in [are] operating sustainably.”
Leigh Barnes of Intrepid Travel said that the company went carbon neutral in 2010, but decided to get the offical certification last year.
“We measured our outputs as a business and then we went around looking for reductions, minimising the number of flights in our trips, using public transport where possible.”
“We put in place efficiency measures around light bulbs. And then we reduced the number of brochures we printed.”
“People want to do business with companies that are doing good.”
Matt Drum, chief of consultancy with NDEVR Environmental, a certification body that specialises in carbon neutrality accreditation added that “we are heading in completely the wrong direction… Our emissions should be decreasing towards 2030, [but] as an economy, they’re increasing.”
According to the ABC, “The voluntary program is creating three-times more activity in the carbon offsetting space than the mandatory program is at the moment.”
Emma Bombonato, environmental sustainability manager at the Sydney Opera House told the ABC that their motivation for going carbon neutral was different. “We decided to go carbon neutral to make sure that we’re inspiring the community to contribute to a more sustainable future.” She said.
There was, according to Michael Slezak, a 30% jump in the number of businesses achieving carbon neutral certification in 2018, all of which were voluntary moves by enterprise. The number of carbon neutral data centres stands at 81, according to Environment Department.