By Rees Westley, Head of Utilities at BCS.

The data centre industry and its participants continue to face the enduring challenge of sourcing affordable power and ensuring where possible, it is renewable and sustainable. Therefore, having a comprehensive understanding of power usage is crucial in improving the alignment between demand and supply within the industry. With this is mind we asked a number of questions around this topic as part of our annual survey of 3500 senior European datacentre professionals.

Consumption up

Once again, there is substantial evidence indicating that power consumption in the data centre industry is projected to increase, at least in the near future. Approximately 81% of our respondents reported that they expected rising consumption levels over the next three years and, it is important to note that the number of participants anticipating a more significant increase in consumption has risen from 40% to 49% in the current survey.

As the industry grapples with the challenge of sourcing power these findings reiterate the ongoing upward trend in power consumption and also highlight the growing awareness among respondents of the potential magnitude of this increase.

Average Rack Power/cooling levels rising

An analysis of the expectations of our latest respondents regarding their average rack power/cooling levels in the upcoming year reveals only minimal differences compared to the data recorded in Q4 2022. Approximately 28% of survey participants anticipate an average rack power/cooling level of 9kw-12kw in the coming year, representing a slight increase from the figure reported in our previous

survey. Additionally, nearly a quarter of respondents expect the average rack power/cooling level to reach 12kw-15kw within the next 12 months, marking a notable increase compared to the 17% recorded in the same survey. The proportion of respondents indicating a level higher than 15kw per rack remains small at 7%, consistent with the metric reported last winter.

Power efficient datacentres

Eighty eight percent of our respondents expect a rise in the cost of power to increase the demand for power efficient data centre space over the next three years – up from the 82% noted six months ago. For the third survey in a row 95% of service providers expressed their agreement with this outcome, and notably some 58% of end-users cited the same, down from the 67% recorded earlier in the year.

Increased Scrutiny drives move to renewables

Whilst the financial benefits that power efficiencies bring to operators are welcome it is increasingly the global political and social push for stronger environmental protection is driving the prioritisation of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. The move to renewable energy in the sector represents a pivotal step towards creating a more sustainable and environmentally conscious digital infrastructure and once again our latest survey clearly shows that the industry remains deeply engaged in providing appropriate power solutions.

As we reported in our winter 2022 survey some 82% agreed that they expect the sourcing of power for data centres to be at least 90% from renewable sources over a 10-year horizon and six months later this proportion remains the same. In addition, only a very small minority - just 3% - believe that this will not be the case.

Amongst our service providers the proportion in agreement jumps to some 90%; marginally up on the 88% reported six months ago. For the third survey in a row our developer and investor respondents were near universal in their agreement on this issue.

The result is a shift towards renewable energy sources which are more likely to have been generated locally and thus making it less susceptible to global factors and potentially improving energy security and pricing. The latest survey offers additional evidence supporting this notion, with approximately 68% of survey participants agreed that recent events would prompt them to expedite their transition towards renewable energy; a slight decrease from the 70% reported last winter, although remaining a significant proportion.

Amongst end-users this proportion was even higher at some 85%, marginally up on 83% reporting the same six months ago. In addition, amongst service providers 70% shared this belief, a similar proportion to that seen last winter. For developers and investors, the level of agreement is slightly lower at around two-thirds, a notable decline on the 80% who expressed this preference in Q2 2022. This metric will be one to watch as developers and investors have a significant influence on the move to renewable energy sources and are key to Europe’s move towards its promises of Net Zero.

We’re all agreed on one thing…

There is no doubt that understanding and effectively managing power consumption will remain crucial in the coming years if our sector is to continue to grow and thrive.

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