Carbon scheme closes amid datacentre cost concerns

Almost 2,800 organisations have registered for the mandatory scheme, with qualifying businesses subject to possible fines if they have not registered

Nearly 2,800 participants have registered for the Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme, according to the Environment Agency, and registration has now closed.

The scheme uses the threat of financial penalties to steer organisations that consume a lot of power towards becoming more energy-efficient. However, some datacentre operators have suggested that the costs involved in becoming compliant with the programme could be passed down to their customers.

At the time of writing, an additional 400 organisations were going through the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) registration process. The deadline for registration was Thursday, with all companies that register late potentially subject to a £5,000 fine and an additional £500 per working day past the deadline — up to a maximum of 80 days.

The Environment Agency expects to have all eligible participants registered within the mandatory scheme. However, a spokeswoman told ZDNet UK on Friday that "organisations that have made a genuine attempt to register [but have not been able to] have nothing to fear" when it comes to the fines, though "organisations that attempt to avoid registration of the CRC should recognise that we will attempt to use all of our enforcement powers".

The CRC requires all organisations that use over 6,000MW h of electricity a year to register and provide annual information on their energy usage. Additionally, all organisations with a half-hourly electricity meter — as used by companies that consume very high levels of electricity — have to submit information to the Environmental Agency to prove they fall beneath the 6,000MW h threshold.

From April 2011, businesses that qualify will be able to buy and sell allowances for their annual carbon emissions, with the charges set at £12 per emitted ton of CO2. The most wasteful firms will be named and shamed in a league table.

The CRC scheme is seen as an added incentive for companies to increase their energy efficiency. All energy-intensive organisations, from primary care trusts to datacentre providers, have been affected by the scheme.

The scheme "has brought in some impetus with our trust board... because it is very much around the finance of carbon reduction, whereas some of the other schemes, such as [the voluntary scheme] Carbon Champion, have been more about people power", the head of estates for Hampshire Primary Care Trust (HPCT), Diana Standing, told ZDNet UK on Friday.

However, by following the CRC and paying the associated fees, some businesses may pass on the charges to customers.

"I think, to be honest, in terms of datacentres, it will have a large impact because when they created the CRC, they probably didn't look at the datacentre as a sector," datacentre operator Interxion's UK managing director Greg McCulloch told ZDNet UK.

He explained that Interxion has installed passive infrared (PIR) sensor lights across all its facilities to economise on lighting, and installed blanking panels within its datacentre racks to ensure that air circulation is at maximum efficiency. He partially attributed these moves to the CRC.

Telecity, another major datacentre operator, has invested £1m across its European sites to increase energy efficiency, Rob Coupland, the company's chief operating officer, told ZDNet UK.

In part because of the CRC and because of participation in the EU Code of Conduct in Datacentres, Telecity did a review of every single one of its sites across Europe and looked at how it could manage energy efficiency, Coupland said. Ultimately, Telecity took similar decisions to Interxion and installed blanking panels within its racks to control air circulation, along with variable-speed drives on its server fans to maximise efficiency.

Like the mutually focused Carbon Champion drive at HPCT, within datacentres the CRC is just one aspect of an overall environment based on energy efficiency. The industry itself is also driving monitoring and reporting through the growing use of the Power Usage Effectiveness metric, which is designed to judge facility energy efficiency for both customers and operators.


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