How Tech is driving net zero goals

The UK’s Net Zero sector leads Europe for venture capital investment, at £336mn, and is home to 323 tech companies that are working hard to reduce carbon emissions globally.

Scalable sustainability within any sector is not easy. This report takes a look at the latest research and discusses how technology is helping net zero companies achieve their goals and how they are tackling the issue internally.

The tech landscape – tech backlash

Despite recent claims that the tech sector is out of control with regards to carbon emissions, it is one of the few which is on track to decarbonise and is one of the first to develop science-based legal targets to limit global warming by 2050. Not only this, the sector is at the forefront of some of the most innovative ways to help other industries and sectors to reach their net zero targets. It is to this end that governments are funding start-ups to help them to scale up in order to maximise their potential.

Data Centres are often at the heart of the argument surrounding sustainability within the tech industry. The EU has made calls for Data Centres to be carbon neutral by 2030. Currently the industry uses a metric called Power Utilisation Effectiveness, or PUE. The calculation of PUE is total facility energy consumption divided by IT equipment energy consumption. Expert opinion now believes that because temperatures in the UK at least (which for the majority of the year do not exceed 14 degrees) data centre equipment don’t require any additional cooling so therefore there are many savings to be made here. Data taken from the UK Energy Research Centre shows that for every 1W of energy provided to the ICT equipment in a data warehouse, 0.8W is being supplied to the supporting infrastructure. This means that there may be more energy being used to cool the equipment than is strictly necessary.

Leaving small office based “server” rooms out of the equation, predictions for growth of colocation (colo) facilities is currently at 25% over the next decade. Globally there are around 450 of these with another 150 in construction, meaning that there could be between 5 and 10 huge data centres in each major European city by 2030. In the UK currently, enterprise data centres are by far the major component and in 2017 an EU study indicated that there were around 10k of these in the UK. Looking at the financials, a UK Energy Research Centre study calculates the potential energy saving costs at around 15%-25% with some businesses achieving up to 70%. That is a huge saving for UK PLCs.

What can Data Centres do to help reduce energy consumption?

The EU Code of Conduct – 2021 Best Practice Guidelines for the EU Code of Conduct on Data Centre Energy Efficiency recommends 153 best practices that can be adopted to ensure that there is a reduction in energy consumption.

One of the areas highlighted as a cause of inefficiency is poor communication between the different disciplines working both directly and indirectly in the data centres. To this end they suggest setting up an approval board with representatives from all disciplines involved: Senior Management, M & E, IT, Engineering, Software/Applications, Procurement who can discuss, approve and communicate any solutions to the whole team.

Other areas within the best practice document cover carrying out an audit of existing equipment to maximise any unused existing capability. The full document can be found here



In June 2021 Mission Innovation 2.0 was launched in Santiago, Chile. Here 23 Governments collectively launched bold plans to spearhead a decade of innovation designed to drive investment into clean energy research, development and demonstrations. This initiative is designed to fund innovative solutions to clear the pathway towards net zero goals laid out at the Paris Agreement (limit global warming to well below 2 degree Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels). One huge area that can help with reduction in emissions is the building industry and the growth of smart cities around the world. Intelligent building Management Systems can help reduce the estimated 30% inefficiency in many of todays commercial buildings. They are in effect digital twins of the physical building. Solar glass panels can be used to generate electricity and whilst the technology is still in its infancy a team at the University of Michigan is developing a solar glass product that offers 15% efficiency whilst letting in 50% of light (earlier versions were struggling to maintain transparency over efficiency). If the estimated 5 to 7 billion square meters of usable window space (projections from Michigan State) were used, then that would be enough to power 40% of US energy needs via solar glass. Norway is a leader in the development of smart city technology. The body responsible for all government funded construction projects has invested heavily in opening up the market for energy-positive buildings, that is buildings that generate more energy that they consume throughout their lifespan. Smart technologies based on the Internet of Things are really helping to improve efficiency, data collection provides the basis for automatically controlled lighting, heating and cooling, delivering the right levels at precisely the right moment. Computer virtualization is one of the concepts used in green technology (where several systems can be combined onto one virtual machine on one single robust system), the original hardware is unplugged thus saving energy and if we turn to Cloud computing it is estimated that businesses can cut their emissions by half.


Cybersecurity alongside sustainability is now a Government and C-suite issue. The opportunities and challenges between the two disciplines have many areas of interoperability. Sustaining cybersecurity in the modern ICT ecosystem means being intentional about interoperability and the business choices that should be made to securely enable it. Environmental infrastructure is vulnerable to attacks due to the heavy reliance on technology. Quite literally a failure of cybersecurity could result in massive pollution events and critical infrastructure failure (think Dams, Powerstations, airquality in public, commercial and domestic buildings etc). The command and control elements of the cyber-physical systems that are used to protect environmental health are therefore of critical importance. With the explosive growth of data, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and the near daily breaches of security it is obvious that current cybersecurity technologies are not currently adequate to secure todays economy against, amongst other things, an increase in distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. This is changing however, and with the rise of smart cities technologies are evolving quickly to meet the increase demand for security.

In order to meet these security challenges all areas of society need to up their game. Businesses should look to revise priorities to better formalise investment strategies and reassess profitability measurements. For example the need to be first-to-market over safe-to-market is an important dynamic and further shifts need to occur from a compliance focused mindset to a more of a risk management mindset. Insurers can help by shifting incentives to invest in security through new underwriting parameters and consumers need to learn the relevant elements of cybersecurity and build them into daily life.

During Cop26 more than 40 nations have said they will align standards and co-ordinate investments to help make green technology more affordable and when this tipping point comes that is when it is anticipated that the most dramatic reductions in emissions will take place.

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