Your Data Pollutes The Environment Immensely, How Tech Companies ‘Compensate’

Data centers account for 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions. They are responsible for 15% of the IT sector’s carbon footprint and 18% of digital pollution. This owes to the fact that data centers never go to sleep and collectively have been proven to use nearly 3% of the world’s electricity consumption.

‘Cloud Storage’ often comes across as storage somewhere outside of the physical, however, these are on-ground places; buildings that house banks of computer processing units. These are essential units that hold your work, research, stories of your lives, and even your financial worth. Despite the catastrophic effect on our climate, data centers are equally essential in our lives.

“Energy use by leading tech firms is relatively minor compared with their economic, financial, and even social footprint,” wrote George Kamiya and Laszlo Varro in an International Energy Agency analysis. “Yet, it is precisely because of that massive financial footprint, combined with their enormous cultural and scientific influence, that these companies have such a potentially huge role to play in tackling the climate challenge.”

Tech & Climate Change

Tech companies have over the years found ways to ‘compensate’ for the carbon footprint related to data centers and their activities. This is by reducing carbon consumption and helping solve the larger issue of climate change.

One of the most visible ways these companies have impacted the renewable energy markets is through power purchase agreements or PPAs. With a PPA, a company agrees to buy renewable energy from a project that is not online yet for a set period at a set price, usually between a decade and 20 years.
Microsoft, for example, was the second-largest corporate buyer of renewable energy through PPAs in 2021.

Buying through PPAs that make a long-term commitment helps to raise the financing that is needed to bring new electricity generation online. Many of those deals are in Europe, including Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, and Spain. In total, Microsoft has signed PPAs that will contribute to bringing more than 10 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity online.

On Nov. 23, the company announced PPAs in Ireland for more than 900 megawatts of new renewable electricity capacity. There are 1,000 megawatts in one gigawatt. Microsoft forecasts that by 2025, its data centers in Ireland will be supported 100% by renewable energy from new projects funded by PPAs.
This guarantee of steady income for a new project has been a force in expanding the market for renewable energy. Tech companies using renewable energy in data centers is a step in the right direction. However, for companies to fully match the carbon footprint, they have to sign more deals to keep up their goals, because demand is growing so fast.

Using such innovative approaches, tech companies have been demonstrating how data centers can conserve power, reduce emissions, and even contribute energy back to the grid.


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