From NegaWatts to NegaBytes: Digital Sustainability Alliance unveils paper encouraging more efficient computing

12 December, 23
The Digital Sustainability Alliance has unveiled a policy paper on how to reduce the growth in energy use in computing, amid a global spotlight on tech sustainability at COP28.

The Digital Sustainability Alliance has unveiled a policy paper on how to reduce the growth in energy use in computing, amid a global spotlight on tech sustainability at COP28.

The paper, titled From NegaWatts to NegaBytes: How lessons from energy efficiency can help reduce energy needs for computing, borrows from the successful approach of NegaWatts championed by Amory Lovins to make electricity use more efficient and applies it to computing. The concept of NegaWatts means using existing data centre capacity more efficiently before building new data ones.

Digital data growth is accelerating, and companies continue to build new data centres. But are these needed? Data centres are operating at less than full capacity, with estimates as low as 30 percent, but they still require energy-intensive cooling systems straining current electricity supplies. The paper argues that utilizing more of and improving existing infrastructure will be far cheaper and have a more positive climate impact than building new data centres.

To address this issue, author of the paper Mark Bernstein, discusses NegaBytes as concept for focusing investment, calling on investors to focus on technologies and practices that reduce the demand for new capacity and make the existing utilization more efficient.

Author of the paper, Mark Bernstein, Co-founder of the Digital Sustainability Alliance, said: “As power consumption rises alongside the increasing use of technology, accelerated by artificial intelligence, it is essential that we take a moment to consider the environmental impact of computing and storing digital data. Stewardship in this area is vital and the Digital Sustainability Alliance was launched to raise awareness of these issues, working towards increased transparency, providing better information and bringing together like-minded companies and stakeholders to address the future impact of computing.“

Ben Golub, Co-Founder of the Digital Sustainability Alliance, commented: “The greenest hardware and greenest data centres are the ones that don’t need to be built nor expanded. Utilizing existing technology such as Storj, for example, organisations can better utilize the storage capacity of data centres, while simultaneously providing better overall performance and economics. Adopting the technologies promoted by the DSA does not require economic or behavioural sacrifices, nor does it require making fundamental changes to consumer behaviour or buying patterns. It is a way to do well by doing good.”

The Digital Sustainability Alliance was created through the efforts of three founding members (including Storj, Ad Signal and Valdi), all founded to create a greener, faster and more secure digital world for storing and distributing content. Believing that environmental stewardship is everyone’s duty, the founders welcome additional innovative firms, educators, and influencers to join the Alliance.

To read the full paper visit: https://digitalsustainabilityalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Negawatts-White-Paper.pdf

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