Project Merit: Smart Grid & Energy Management

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WSP (London) for conducting and publishing, in partnership with the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), a study on the impact of cloud computing on the environment. A key goal of the study was to identify the most energy and carbon efficient IT solutions for small- and medium-sized organizations (SMOs).

To uncover the major factors determining how on-premise server rooms and cloud computing stack up in carbon emissions and energy savings, Josh Whitney, WSP's lead author, examined five different scenarios with the goal of making it easier for companies to compare options and consider sustainability in their decision-making. The analysis used for the study breaks new ground in identifying how best practice, average, and worst-case scenarios impact environmental performance when modeled across a variety of application and deployment types.

The study found that while running a computer application in the cloud is generally more energy- and carbon-efficient than running it in your server room, the carbon footprint of cloud computing services is highly dependent on a number of important variables that were considered in the analysis including server utilization factor, electricity carbon emissions factor for the location of the data center, the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio, and hardware efficiency.