Google has invested heavily in data centres and fibre infrastructure in Europe, resulting in widespread benefits for the whole region.
The global giant currently operates hyperscale data centres in four European countries, including St. Ghislain-Mons in Belgium, Hamina-Kotka in Finland, Dublin in Ireland and Eemshaven-Gorningen in the Netherlands.
According to a report released from Copenhagen Economics, Google has made a EUR 4.3 billion data centre-related investment into Europe since 2007.
Of this, EUR 3.2 billion has gone into construction and operating these four data centres, with an additional EUR 1.1 billion spent on European fibre networks to connect them to the Internet and make them accessible for the multiple consumer and business applications offered.
Copenhagen measured the extent to which these investments converted into benefits for European societies and economies, finding as main results that:
Copenhagen Economics says the benefits of these data centres for local communities across the EU is immense.
First, data centres create jobs in remote areas that include IT technicians, electrical and mechanical engineers, catering, facilities and security staff.
Second, a big company like Google investing into an area often open and influence others to do the same as it confirms the presence of skills, suppliers and resources that other investors are looking for.
Third, research has found that large multinational companies’ hold technical, operational and managerial knowledge that can improve the productivity of local suppliers through knowledge spill-overs and market-size effects
And lastly, Copenhagen Economics asserts Google supports the local data centre community – for example, through grants. Almost EUR 3 million in grants have been donated across Europe over the past three years. Google also supports communities via teaching collaborations local colleges to help build the local skills base.
Copenhagen Economics says Google data centres also help digital users consumer energy in a more efficient and environmentally-friendly way.
Research has shown large data centres are more energy-efficient than individual servers and by pooling the server needs of many customers a lot of energy can be saved. The report uses the example of moving email services from in-house servers to data centres via cloud-based solutions, which could save European companies EUR 850 million in energy costs every year.
Over the years Google has been able to reduce its energy dispersion indicator (power usage effectiveness, PUE) to an average of 1.12 – significantly lower than the European data centre average of 1.70.
According to Copenhagen Economics, if data centres in Europe were as efficient as Google, electricity consumption would drop every year by around 26 TWh (the equivalent of the electricity consumption of all Polish households).
Furthermore, Google is committed to purchase enough renewable energy to cover the electricity consumed at its data centres and operations.
In Europe, Google achieves this by signing corporate Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) – agreements to buy power from renewable energy power plants at an agreed price and on a long-term basis.
Despite all these benefits, Copenhagen research says there needs to be change at a policy level.
“For Europe to benefit fully and sustainably from this type of investment – whether by Google or other firms that rely directly on data centres – the policy framework can play a decisive role,” the report states.
“It is a multi-sectoral endeavour that will benefit from a joined-up approach. We believe that multiple layers of government can play a key role; thus we provide an overview of recommendations for three policy layers.”
Regardless, it is clear that continued investment from the big companies like Google will have a positive impact on the European data centre industry as a whole.