Report: Green contracts could cut data centre energy use by 40%

There are still major issues with the excessive power consumption of data centres, according to a new report.

While the larger server farms run by the likes of Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are relatively efficient, the approximately three million other data centres are less green-conscious.

Read more: Greenpeace slams AWS and Twitter for lacklustre green energy policies

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) claims that energy usage could still be reduced by 40 per cent, saving more than $3.8 billion (£2.3 billion) in 2014 alone.

Pierre Delforge, the NRDC's director of high-tech energy efficiency, claims that environmentalists need to look beyond the high-profile companies.

"Most of the attention is focused on the highly visible hyperscale 'cloud' data centres like Google's and Facebook's, but they are already very efficient and represent less than 5 per cent of U.S. data centre electricity consumption. Our small, medium, corporate and multi-tenant data centres are still squandering huge amounts of energy."

Estimates suggest that by 2020, US data centres will require approximately 140 kilowatt-hours of electricity to remain online.

In research carried out with Anthesis, the NRDC found that underutilised servers were a key reason for energy wastage.

The report claims that the average server operates at just 12 to 18 per cent of its capacity, meaning many businesses could be more aggressive in consolidating or virtualising them.

"The more work a server performs, the more energy-efficient it is—just as a bus uses much less gasoline per passenger when ferrying 50 people than when carrying just a handful," the report adds.

Amongst the recommendations to improve energy efficiency are increased public disclosure of data centre energy information and "green" data centre leases that provide incentives for reducing energy use.

Read more: Microsoft goes green with largest wind energy investment so far

In particular, these "green" contracts are thought to be effective, offering firms financial incentives in return for a more environmentally-friendly approach.