Carbon tax turns eyes to energy, datacentres

Carbon tax turns eyes to energy, datacentres

Summary: Green datacentres and keeping an eye on reducing energy consumption will be key to keeping costs in control, the information and communications technology industry has said of the government's plans to introduce a carbon tax for the top 500 Australian polluters.

SHARE:

Green datacentres and keeping an eye on reducing energy consumption will be key to keeping costs in control, the information and communications technology industry has said of the government's plans to introduce a carbon tax for the top 500 Australian polluters.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard revealed the full details of the Federal Government's plan to introduce a carbon tax starting at $23 per tonne to be paid by the top 500 polluters in Australia from 1 July 2012.

The collected funds will then be passed back to lower income consumers in tax cuts to compensate for price hikes, and will also go to fund renewable energies.

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO Ian Birks said the announcement was a "bold but necessary and balanced approach".

"The ICT industry has long promoted the importance of developing sustainable industry, and we see this as an important step forward," Birks said in a statement. "There is now a clear impetus to act and a framework to act within. Taking action now will be less costly and disruptive than taking action later."

Although the AIIA did not have a position on whether the tax was the best method to reduce carbon emissions, Birks said that now the scheme had been announced, it would provide certainty for the industry.

"The encouraging outcome here is the understanding that ICT will help secure a clean energy future for Australia. The fact that a pricing mechanism on carbon is only one part of the broader package to help transition our country to a clean energy future is a sure sign that the government understands the role of ICT in enabling this transition pathway," he said.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia said it was reviewing the government's plans and looking on how to best manage its energy consumption.

"We have thousands of network base stations across the country, several datacentres and larger network hubs, around 600 stores and several corporate office sites. In our view, gaining a clear and accurate understanding of our energy use and carbon emissions is just part of good and responsible management practice for our company," Vodafone said, adding that the company had set up an energy management team in January to review the company's energy use.

"Now that the bulk of our operational changes have been completed post-merger, we're in a position to set targets for energy and carbon emissions, which we'll be completing this year. The EMT is tasked with identifying, assessing and implementing energy efficiency initiatives, reporting progress regularly to our executive team."

Optus said it was committed to reducing its greenhouse gas impact.

"Like all members of the industry, Optus is impacted by the wider industry issue of rising electricity costs," the telco said. "Optus continually looks at ways to become more energy efficient as part of our ongoing commitment to reducing our greenhouse gas impacts. This also enables us to manage and decrease costs associated with energy consumption."

IT services company Fujitsu Australia's director of sustainability Chris Seale welcomed the government's carbon tax plan.

"Fujitsu supports a carbon price as a market-based mechanism that will be the most effective way to achieve the required reductions to CO2 emissions," he said. "The carbon tax is one of many different approaches to drive change."

The company would likely be hit with additional costs due to electricity price rises, Seale said, but the company would address this through its energy saving projects.

"The biggest area for cost increases will be in the cost of electricity, which will increase by around 20 per cent based on our existing consumption," Seale said. "We are working on initiatives to decrease energy usage for the company to balance the projected increase in costs."

Datacentres will also have a role to play in reducing carbon emissions, he said.

"Fujitsu has implemented a robust sustainability program on a worldwide basis that is focused on reducing the overall footprint for our customers and for our own operations. This includes the commissioning of world-leading datacentres that employ the latest technology in power management and cooling," he said.

"Fujitsu has also placed a great deal of focus on cloud, which has the overall effect of lowering the net carbon footprint."

Australian Computer Society president Anthony Wong said that technology would be key to offsetting carbon.

"Australian businesses will now have to invest in renewable technologies and practices. Long-term practices will need to be established to provide solutions for everything from waste management, such as how businesses will get rid of old computers, to datacentres and how servers will be cooled."

NextDC CEO Bevan Slattery told the Australian Financial Review yesterday that the carbon tax would drive businesses to use datacentres that are energy efficient, but warned that the increased costs of electricity for running datacentres would be passed onto customers.

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) said that because hosting was a global market, datacentres that are not subject to a carbon tax overseas may potentially have an advantage on price alone. However, IIA added that Australia may have the advantage for people concerns about data hosted overseas.

"It's hard to tell at this early stage which way that dynamic will play through," the IIA said. "One would hope the underlying drivers here would be to accelerate moves towards greener datacentres in Australia."

The IIA said there was still a lot of political uncertainty around the carbon tax, with the Opposition "intent in its opposition to the policy". The carbon tax had much more political uncertainty than the controversial National Broadband Network project, which had already had a number of contracts signed and legislation passed for it, the IIA said.

Steve Hodgkinson, research director for Ovum, said the announcement gave businesses clarity over why they should invest in technology to reduce carbon emissions and systems to monitor energy consumption. Hodgkinson said that IT would be well placed to implement any changes required before the start of the tax next year.

"The speed of technology obsolescence in the IT industry is such that large IT providers have strong commercial incentives anyway to invest in the latest technology, which is also the most energy efficient," he said. "The Climate Change Plan may create additional incentives for economies of scale and M&A activity to consolidate facilities towards the highest standards of energy efficiency."

Topics: Government, Government AU

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Datacentres can easily achieve some massive savings by increasing the allowable temperatures in server rooms, resulting in lower energy consumption.

    Most datacentres/server rooms are often OVER cooled in some mistaken belief the equipment will start failing if the temp exceeds 20C. That belief is flawed, and is merely a hangover from the old days of ancient mainframes (eg. tape units, disk packs, and low density electronics).

    Todays modern equipment is designed to work in a range of reasonable temperatures without suffering any increased failure rates. Hence, datacentres/server rooms only need to provide ambient ventilation (say 22C plus airflow), not bone chilling 18-20C arctic winds some tech guys demand so as to inflate the importance of their datacentre.

    After running a server rack in an open office environment, with the same airconditioning as that used by staff, we've not had a single failure in over 7 years. This is despite some peak ambient temps of 32C (last heat wave with aircon failure).

    Go on, try it. Increase the datacentre room temps to 22C and tell me your hardware failure rate increases. Keep the ventilation, cut the refrigeration.
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • What about Westpac's outage, which stemmed from a cooling issue?

    http://www.zdnet.com.au/westpac-killed-its-own-services-after-fault-339314544.htm
    suzanne.tindal
    • True, but in that case it was the decision to shut down the affected servers that made the problem worse.

      This isn't an issue about not having cooling, just a rational amount. I've spent enough time in datacentres and server rooms to know that most are excessively cooled for no real benefit.
      Scott W-ef9ad
  • Scott, I fully agree with you. IBM, HP, SUN, etc, all advertise their equipment operational conditions up to 37-37DegC. The down side is not solely the DC operators wanting the low level temps for bragging rights, its the customers that own or control the boxes, who still run on uneducated ideals, and do not know any better, due to the incorrect information being fed to them through unprofessional consultancy firms. I have been party to these meetings, and have walked away dismayed at such antiquated ideas. As for Suzanne comment about Westpac, have you ever heard of thermal runaway? if you maintain a constant temp' your ok, but if it gets away from you, and you cannot evacuate the heat, you start to run away with the heat, and it is very hard to stop and recover, without, shutdown.. Otherwise, you'd be wanting some of the biggest A/C units around to pull this back in line.
    Stuey-946f3
    • Thermal runaway is a legitimate issue, but it requires a set of circumstances that any rational person would be able to identify and act upon well before it occurred.

      It would require the failure of the ventilation system and ambient temperatures exceeding the equipments rating. With a few exceptions for very sensitive equipment, most devices would slowly heat up (noting they generally have some onboard ventilation fans etc) before hitting runaway levels.

      For this scenario to occur someone would have to: not notice the ventilation failure, not recognise the ambient temperature is above specificiation, and then do nothing about it.

      To get the temps back in line. Shut down the equipment to prevent damage, restore the ventilation, restart equipment once equipment temps are within spec. If equipment is that mission critical, you can afford to shut it down to prevent other failure OR invest in some redundancy (aircon or datacentres).
      Scott W-ef9ad
  • Right. Understand what you're saying.
    suzanne.tindal
  • I love how they are forcing this carbon tax. They should let the people of Australia vote for it. The only thing that will happen is people will lose jobs and the amount in tax will be payed by the people on the streets from increased food and commodities prices. They are bluffing themselves if they thing that the companies getting hit with this is going to pay for it they will just increase there prices. If they really wanted to fix this whole carbon pollution problem which in itself is a bunch of rubbish the earths been cooling not heating up they would have taken all that money they're spending and put it into research for cleaner energy but they won't because money is the root of all evil.
    no@...
    • On the Carbon Tax, it's just a price on carbon to prop up the government coffers. It offers no real benefit to 'greening' Australia or the world.
      Scott W-ef9ad
  • They are putting billions into energy research (see link: http://www.climatespectator.com.au/news/govt-pump-13-billion-clean-energy). And we as the end user are in end effect the people who are directly or indirectly creating the carbon emissions. I don't know if the carbon tax is the correct answer to the problem, but it wouldn't be a deterrent to emissions if it didn't hurt.
    suzanne.tindal