Digital transformation and a net zero emissions Europe – March 2021

Many countries have recently legislated for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or before. This challenge will become increasingly important as many enterprises are undergoing their digital transformation to upgrade their business operations, leading to an expected exponential growth in computing demand over the next several decades. This increase in computing demand would generally result in a similarly significant rise in electricity consumption and emissions. However, this need not be the case. Providers of computing services have an opportunity to assist in building a net zero emissions Europe through the use of virtualisation software, that allows for much more computation with significantly less IT hardware. Coupled with the increased usage of renewable energy to fulfil electricity requirements, this can help IT operations in Europe to substantially decrease its carbon footprint—about 55% over the next two decades.

Published today, our latest report ‘Digital Transformation and a Net Zero Emissions Europe’ – commissioned by VMware – indicates how data centre virtualisation and cloud computing can play a pivotal role in achieving power sector emissions reductions in Europe. In this report, we:

  • examine the impact of future scenarios of the penetration and improvement of virtualisation technologies on European electricity consumption and emissions.
  • assess two possible levers to further mitigate the carbon footprint of European computing demand:
    • increasing the virtualisation rate of public cloud data centres and on-premises IT operations;
    • increasing the number of renewable-energy powered data centres and shifting computing demand to locations of lower power grid carbon intensity.
  • provide an overview of how data centres can play a role in helping integrate renewable grids across Europe.

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