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Data centres: an unlikely climate change hero for energy-intensive industries

An unlikely climate change hero:  how the data centre industry is part of the decarbonisation solution for energy-intensive industries

For many energy-intensive industries, the data centre industry could be part of the solution to decarbonising and the race to net zero emissions.

Dominated by the world’s largest and most profitable companies and with such a dramatic growth trajectory, there are few other emerging innovative industries that have similar levels of ambition, motivation and the means at their disposal to decarbonise, deliver impactful carbon reduction technologies and pave the way for other industries. If decarbonisation breakthroughs are going to come from anywhere, it’s the data centre sector.

Since the inception of the data centre industry, the emphasis has been on speed, scale and efficiency. However, with grid instability, energy scarcity and greater emphasis on sustainability, the sector has accelerated its path towards net zero emissions.

Across the data centre supply-chain, the climate imperative has stimulated a wave of technological innovation, collaboration and exciting new models for these ambitious and energy-intensive enterprises.  The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, signed in 2021 last year, reflects this ambition, action and collaboration.

With the decarbonisation of data centres progressing at pace, there are many transferable learnings that other energy intensive industries can benefit from.

Perhaps the most important of these is the spirit of collaboration and knowledge sharing that has helped drive change. The owners and operators in the sector are very competitive, but they are also strongly committed to achieving net zero emissions. There is a growing recognition that this is an area they need to collaborate on. They are putting collaboration ahead of competition and that gives confidence that solutions will continue to be trialled, tested, implemented and shared for the greater good.

Owners, operators, contractors, enterprises and local, regional and national Governments are coming together to deliver inspiring new projects. Growing opportunities from technological advances are increasing circular initiatives and the decentralisation of energy, heat and water treatment.

At the heart of advancing the decarbonisation innovations and solutions for data centres are several Irish organisations that operate across multiple international markets. The latest generation of self-build hyper scale data centres under construction across much of the UK and Europe may not quite come with a ‘Made in Ireland’ label attached, but it wouldn’t be stretching the point too far to apply it.

Companies such as PM Group, Ethos Engineering, Collen Construction, Mercury Engineering, and many others have blazed a trail, bringing with them a level of expertise in data centre design, delivery and operation which is hard to match anywhere on the globe.

Their story is one of ambition, partnership and collaboration. Delivering built assets for some of the world’s most ambitious and energy dependent enterprises, Irish construction companies are delivering the game-changing carbon reduction innovations and have accrued deep insights that are applicable to other energy-intensive industrial sectors that are looking to decarbonise in similar timescales.

This insight and experience have been captured in a new ebook ‘Towards net-zero construction in energy-intensive sectors: experiences from the decarbonisation of mission-critical facilities.’ Collating a wide range of international perspectives from leaders within the data center industry, we hope the insights gathered will prove invaluable on the journey to net zero emissions.

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