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The key to tackling climate change is right in front of you


28 April 2016

Graham Seabrook

Blogs by author: Graham Seabrook, Head of Sustainability Advisory Services, BT.


Technology can change the world — especially when it comes to preventing global warming. Here’s how you can use your ICT to cut your carbon footprint.

A message I can get behind.
I read an article recently that was all about cloud services. It started how you’d expect, talking about the business benefits of the cloud: flexibility and agility, support for disaster recovery, avoiding large up-front investments, low maintenance, improved security… and the environmental benefits.

Create a better climate, while cutting costs.
It’s increasingly recognised that ICT has a major role to play in helping the UK to meet its carbon reduction targets.

recent report highlighted the positive impact that ICT could have — creating a 24 per cent reduction in UK carbon emissions annually (the same as taking 26 million cars off the road). This is equivalent to 12 times the carbon footprint of the underlying ICT itself; in other words, ICT has a net positive impact.

And cloud is one of the ICT technologies that contributes to this. So how does it work? Well, it’s actually quite simple.

How it works.
In older data centres, cooling alone often increases the total power consumption (and therefore the carbon footprint) in excess of two times the consumption of the servers themselves. While modern data centres, such as BT’s ARK data centres, are designed to be ultra-efficient — minimising the need for additional cooling. The measurement for this is often referred to as power usage efficiency, or PUE. Thanks to inbuilt efficiency, the ARK data centres achieve a guaranteed PUE of 1.2 at all times, compared with industry average figures closer to 1.7.

So, by using our cloud services, and hosting your data in places like the ARK, you’re cutting the amount of power needed to run your network — and therefore the carbon emissions which result from the generation of that power.

Discover how much carbon you could cut.
But that’s only half the story. The data centres from which BT’s cloud services are offered still have a carbon footprint — albeit a much smaller one. However, when you take into account the carbon footprint of the non-cloud facilities that are being replaced, you start to see the real benefit of moving to the cloud.

And that’s what our new tool can do for you. It’s called BT’s Carbon Calculator for Business, and it estimates the carbon (and cost) benefits that a number of our products and services can deliver.

It compares the PUE of your existing data centre with that of BT’s and takes into account the average electricity consumption per server.

Next it considers the virtualisation rate of the before and after scenarios — that’s the ratio of virtual servers to physical servers — and the geographic location of the BT services. The location is important, given that the carbon footprint of a data centre is dependent on the carbon intensity of the electricity produced in different countries. Iceland, for example, is amongst the lowest with its use of hydroelectric and geothermal power, while India is one of the worst, because of its continued dependence on coal.

Spread the message.
You’ll be amazed to see the magnitude of the potential savings you can make. But it’s not just about facts and figures — the Carbon Calculator is a catalyst for change in your organisation and enables you to take the necessary next steps towards a greener future.

Head over to BT’s Carbon Calculator for Business to see for yourself. And if you’re surprised by the results, let someone else know about it too.