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Consequences of future data center deployment in Canada on electricity generation and environmental impacts: a 2015-2030 prospective study

Thomas Dandres, Nathan Vandromme, Glasha Obrekht, Andy Wong, Kim Khoa Nguyen, Yves Lemieux, Mohamed Cheriet and Réjean Samson

Article (2017)

Cite this document: Dandres, T., Vandromme, N., Obrekht, G., Wong, A., Nguyen, K. K., Lemieux, Y., ... Samson, R. (2017). Consequences of future data center deployment in Canada on electricity generation and environmental impacts: a 2015-2030 prospective study. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 21(5), p. 1312-1322. doi:10.1111/jiec.12515
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Abstract

The environmental impacts of data centers that provide information and communication technologies (ICTs) services are strongly related to electricity generation. With the increasing use of ICT, many data centers are expected to be built, causing more absolute impacts on the environment. Given that electricity distribution networks are very complex and dynamic systems, an environmental evaluation of future data centers is uncertain. This study proposes a new approach to investigate the consequences of future data center deployment in Canada and optimize this deployment based on the Energy 2020 technoeconomic model in combination with life cycle assessment methodology. The method determines specific electricity sources that will power the future Canadian data centers and computes related environmental impacts based on several indicators. In case-study scenarios, the largest deployment of data centers leads to the smallest impact per megawatt of data centers for all of the environmental indicators. It is found that an increase in power demand by data centers would lead to a reduction in electricity exports to the United States, driving the United States to generate more electricity to meet its energy demand. Given that electricity generation in the United States is more polluting than in Canada, the deployment of data centers in Canada is indirectly linked to an increase in overall environmental impacts. However, though an optimal solution should be found to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions, it is not clear whether the environmental burden related to U.S. electricity generation should be attributed to the Canadian data centers.

Uncontrolled Keywords

consequential prospective LCA, industrial ecology, information and communications technology (ICT), life cycle assessment (LCA), marginal electricity, partial equilibrium energy model

Open Access document in PolyPublie
Subjects: 1500 Génie de l'environnement > 1500 Génie de l'environnement
2500 Génie électrique et électronique > 2516 Conversion et distribution de l'énergie
2700 Technologie de l'information > 2700 Technologie de l'information
Department: Département de génie chimique
Research Center: CIRAIG - Centre international de référence sur le cycle de vie des produits, procédés et services
Funders: CRSNG/NSERC
Grant number: CRDPJ 424371-11
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2017 16:05
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2018 16:12
PolyPublie URL: https://publications.polymtl.ca/2358/
Document issued by the official publisher
Journal Title: Journal of Industrial Ecology (vol. 21, no. 5)
Publisher: Wiley & Yale University
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12515

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