The Energy Efficiency Every Business Can and Should Push For

May 9, 2023 | min

These days, energy efficiency is much more than just a way to save money. It can help you reduce your carbon footprint, attract investment, compete for the best talent, and position your company to survive for the long term. But the question is, where do you start?

The good news is there are a lot of steps businesses can take to improve their energy efficiency. And these sustainable business practices can apply to every part of your operation, from your offices and warehouses to your technology and datacenter. 

Simple Energy-Saving Tips for Businesses

Nutanix Data Services for Kubernetes (NDK)

Even making relatively simple changes to how you use energy can lead to surprisingly big savings for small and large businesses. 

Turn electrical appliances off rather than leaving them on standby

The average UK household could make a saving of £147 a year by turning off electrical devices rather than leaving them on standby. If you’re wasting that much money at home, just think about how much your business could save.

Switching off all electric office equipment when it’s not in use and unplugging computers and monitors at the end of the day will prevent latent energy consumption. If staff are away from their desks for more than 10 minutes, encourage them to turn off their monitors. You should also avoid unnecessary printing and photocopying and always unplug phone and laptop chargers when they’re not in use.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it

If you only take meter readings every couple of months, you’ll have little understanding of how and when most of your energy is used. Fitting smart meters can help you get to grips with your energy-intensive tasks and times of the day so you can take steps to reduce your usage. 

Invest in energy-efficient lighting

Lighting is typically responsible for 10% of all energy costs in industrial businesses, rising to between 65 and 95% of warehouse costs. LED lights use 90% less energy than halogen and last up to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs, making it a quick and easy way to boost your energy efficiency. 

Other energy-saving lighting tips include asking employees to turn off lights in rooms no one is using and fitting motion sensors in corridors and bathrooms. 

Improve your office insulation

For a lot of businesses, improving the insulation is an effective way to keep workers warmer in the winter and cooler through the summer. A well-insulated building can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and cut the cost of heating and cooling by up to 40%

For tech businesses, the benefits go even further. Better insulation can play a big part in maintaining certain temperatures and conditions so hardware and software can run smoothly without risking damage or overheating.

Why Big Data and IT Has a Big Sustainability Issue

When it comes to decarbonizing your business, you need to think seriously about your data and applications. Many businesses are embracing the competitive advantages that innovations like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud computing can bring. This, though, can create a reliance on on-premises datacenters, which are energy-intensive and risk counteracting the progress we are making on climate change. 

Datacenters can account for up to 50% of the overall energy consumption of non-industrial companies, which is why they are such a critical component of many businesses’ strategies to meet their emissions targets.

Part of the problem is that commercial datacenters are kept running 24/7 to meet our demands for instant data processing. That means up to 90% of the energy datacenters use is consumed when they’re idle, with only 10% used for actual heavy computation. Shockingly, up to 40% of a datacenter’s energy consumption also goes towards cooling the servers. 

Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is the way datacenter energy efficiency is measured. It’s calculated by comparing the total power a datacenter uses to the actual power delivered to the computing device. As well as cooling, energy losses come from the energy supply itself, lighting, supervision, and security (access control). European enterprises cite an average PUE of 2.1, while most cloud datacenters aim for an average PUE of 1.3-.1-4 or lower.   

Fortunately, there are some relatively simple changes you can make to improve sustainability in your datacenters and reduce energy consumption. 

How the Hybrid Cloud Can Boost Energy Efficiency

Switching to a hybrid cloud and away from traditional on-premises datacenters is a sustainable business practice that can significantly reduce your carbon emissions. 

Hybrid cloud computing is a type of data storage infrastructure that uses a combination of public and private clouds along with select on-premises hardware. This provides many benefits over on-premises legacy datacenters, as it gives businesses more agility, greater flexibility, and better control of their computing resources. However, perhaps the biggest benefit is its superior energy efficiency. 

Here are a few reasons why the hybrid cloud is a more sustainable technology:

  • Less energy is used - Hybrid cloud storage and computing significantly reduce the use of electricity for power, cooling, lighting, and conditioning. Public cloud datacenters also typically use newer, more energy-efficient equipment than their on-premises counterparts. 
  • Reduced hardware and infrastructure - Using cloud computing and cloud data storage solutions allows businesses to reduce their reliance on hardware. That means less electronic waste and fewer carbon emissions from manufacturing.
  • A smaller carbon footprint - Cloud users require fewer servers and consume less power than on-premises datacenters, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions. Cloud providers are also increasingly relying on renewable energy.
  • More efficient consumption - As costs of the public cloud are higher than the private cloud, companies must be more careful about the resources they use in terms of time and quantity, which can boost energy efficiency and reduce wastage. The same applies to the on-premise private cloud, as organizations must be mindful to only use the necessary resources and avoid overprovisioning.    

How Holcim Group Reduced its Carbon Footprint

The Holcim Group is an example of how a simple, flexible, and efficient datacenter solutions can help businesses plan for a more sustainable future. 

As a world leader in construction materials and solutions, Holcim Group is responsible for providing infrastructure and operations services to more than 30,000 users in 53 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. It is also committed to leading the construction industry by reducing carbon emissions and becoming a ‘Net Zero’ company. 

The challenge

The Holcim Group wanted to reduce the carbon footprint of its IT infrastructure. All of its factories have computing and critical activity management needs that require the use of virtualized computing systems and centralized storage, firewall, and backup systems. However, these had reached their lifecycle and required modernization.

The solution

The Holcim Group transitioned to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), which is a combination of servers and storage in a distributed infrastructure platform. Converging the servers, storage, and network into simple nodes with no hardware preference allows them to be managed by software to form a software-defined infrastructure. This helps to eliminate the pain points associated with legacy infrastructure and optimise service capacity and operations. 

In this case, we implemented ROBO (Remote Office Branch Office) v2.1, which incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimise manufacturing and predictive maintenance processes. We used three-node Nutanix clusters as well as a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution from Druba to maintain the firewall security layer and modernise the backup layer.

The benefits

According to Francisco Javier Mollá, I&O Global Manager of Service Delivery for EMEA at Holcim Group: 

“One of the key advantages is simplicity, as we now manage all the clusters from a single console, and we are capable of automating critical activities such as loading security patches. 

“Another great benefit we have experienced is scalability. In any relevant multinational company, the possibility of dynamically coping with the demand based on business needs has unquestionable value.”

This energy-efficient technology also makes a significant contribution to Holcim Group’s sustainability. The IT department is especially proud to support the company’s values through lower power consumption, reduced carbon emissions, and increased energy efficiency. 

Innovating While Mitigating

Data and automation are driving many technological innovations and this advancement shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. Against this backdrop, it’s vital that businesses address their data usage and develop more sustainable business practices that can simplify their operations while enhancing their eco-credentials.  

Join Satu Kaivonen, Corporate Social Responsibility Lead at CGI, and Steen Dalgas, Cloud Economist at Nutanix, for the Nutanix Sustainable IT Infrastructure on-demand webinar. Discover the impact of IT on your power consumption and C02 emissions and explore how new technologies can be leveraged for sustainability initiatives. 

The Nutanix blog series is intended to educate and inform anyone looking to expand their knowledge of cloud infrastructure and related topics. This series focuses on key topics, issues, and technologies around enterprise cloud, cloud security, infrastructure migration, virtualization, Kubernetes, etc. For information on specific Nutanix products and features, visit here.