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UEL computing and energy expert contributes to parliamentary report on energy

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Dr Rabih Bashroush offers expertise to section on data centres

A university of East London (UEL) expert in computing and energy has contributed to a new report launched in Parliament which calls on the government and the public sector to shore up the nation’s expertise and be a leader in the area of smart energy consumption as Britain prepares to leave the EU. 

The report urges the government to support the development and wide-scale adoption of emerging technologies, which could improve information and communications technology (ICT) systems and provide the UK with export opportunities as it develops trade deals outside the EU.

UEL Reader in Distributed Systems and Software Engineering Dr Rabih Bashroush (pictured) joined MPs and experts for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change launch of “Is Staying Online Costing the Earth”, produced by think tank Policy Connect and sponsored by Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe. Dr Bashroush contributed to the report's section on data centres. 

Dr Bashroush recently led EURECA, a 36 month, 1.5 million Euro project funded by the EU, where he worked with partners across Europe on ways to make data centres more energy efficient.

Dr Bashroush said, “Although the increased efficiency in ICT technology means the environmental impact of the internet is stabilising in some areas, we can’t be complacent. 

“Jevons paradox tells us that improved energy efficiency can increase the overall consumption of energy, which we are already witnessing in ICT.”

The report predicts smart developments in ICT energy use could bring about a 15 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030, even when six billion smart phones and 20 billion internet-enabled devices are expected by 2020 globally. 

It also says that the UK has cut emissions by 42 per cent since 1990, while growing the economy by two-thirds. Additionally, 2.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide is saved in the UK each year, thanks to smart building measures, including advanced building energy management systems, improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls, and smart meter installations.

The report claims that that data centres, networks and connected devices correspond to around 3.6 per cent of global electricity use, and around 1.4 per cent of global carbon emissions. 

If entertainment, media, and office printers are included, this increases to roughly 6 per cent of global electricity and about 2.4 per cent of global carbon emissions.

However, over recent years, total global energy consumption and carbon emissions from ICT have levelled and in some cases decreased due to both energy efficiency improvements and increased use of renewable energy.

Dr Bashroush said, “In 2015 data centres are estimated to have corresponded to around one per cent of global energy consumption. That workload is predicted to triple by 2020, but the amount of energy needed is expected to increase by only around 3 per cent, because of smart energy use measures and cooling equipment.”

Data centres are where servers, storage devices, and networking equipment are kept secure and within safe operating temperatures and humidity ranges, and are used to power IT and infrastructure equipment. But continuous running and thousands of servers densely packed together make them energy intensive and produce lots of heat waste.

Dr Bashroush continued, “In Northern Ireland, the Department of Finance spent £1.8 million to consolidate and virtualise their public sector data centres, saving about £500,000 a year, and reducing carbon emissions by nearly 637 tones.

“So far, most of the focus is on making large data centres more energy efficient. However, for example, our research found that 80 per cent of public sector data centres were small server rooms containing less than 25 racks. Hence, going forward, work should focus on helping consolidate these facilities in order to make them more efficient.”