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Microsoft Ireland Research has been working on electricity grid research that allows the exact energy consumption and emissions to be measured for any piece of computation performed in a data centre. This allows past or predicted emissions to be calculated for any computation performed in the cloud and opens the doorway to measuring and reducing the emissions produced by data centres around the world.
In a paper presented at the 11th international conference on Electrical Power Quality And Utilisation, Conor Kelly of Microsoft Ireland and Antonio Ruzzelli of University College Dublin outlined how data centre emissions can be calculated, and presented sample measurements showing that performing computation when ample wind energy was available on the grid emitted less than 1% of the emissions of the same piece of computation performed at another time when the bulk of the electricity consumed was produced by fossil fuel power plants.
As carbon taxes, emissions trading and environmental imperatives become an increasing influence around the world, and the EU looks to slash carbon emissions by 30 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, measuring and controlling the emissions resulting from the energy consumed in data centres will become as important as controlling the energy consumption itself. The research puts in place the calculations required to understand these emissions, which can in turn be used to inform their reduction. This opens up another path to reducing the growing emissions produced by data centres worldwide.
Putting a CO2 Figure on a Piece of Computation has been published by the IEEE and can be viewed here.
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