South Scotland’s energy four times cleaner than London’s

Danny Quinn (MD of DataVita)

ENERGY used in Scotland’s most densely populated areas was nearly four times as clean as London’s last year – and has maintained a similar average over the past three years – according to analysis from DataVita.

The data centre and multi-cloud services provider, working with digital sustainability focused consultancy Posetiv, analysed data produced by the National Grid on the ‘carbon intensity’ – a measure of the CO2 emissions related to electricity generation – of different parts of the country.

It found that South Scotland – which includes the central belt – had an average carbon intensity of 54.97 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent produced per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated (gCO2e/kWh) during 2022. London’s was 3.67x higher, at 202.07 gCO2e/kWh. Carbon intensity is influenced by factors such as access to renewable energy or reliance on fossil fuels in different areas.

Southern Scotland has had the cleanest energy of any part of Great Britain over the last three years. Over the longer term, Scotland maintained a similar advantage in carbon intensity over the capital, averaging 46.92 gCO2e/kWh compared to 179.20 gCO2e/kWh for London – a 3.82x difference.

South Wales’s carbon intensity has been higher than any other part of the country since 2020, while the East Midlands and South England’s electricity systems also had consistently high carbon intensity. 

South Scotland vs London carbon intensity (gCO2e/kWh) during 2020-2022

Source: National Grid

Danny Quinn, MD of DataVita, said: “The figures for last year show there is a huge difference in the carbon intensity of electricity across the country. This is a factor any organisation looking at their sustainability programmes will need to think about, as it can have a big impact on their carbon footprint – depending on where their operations are based, it could have been as much as nine times a difference last year.

“These huge regional variations underline the importance of carefully considering where we place and how we use energy-intensive infrastructure. For example, a company can make a substantial difference to its carbon footprint – reducing it by as much as three-quarters, or 73% – by using a data centre in Scotland, rather than in London.”

Mark Butcher, MD of Posetiv, said: “The focus on becoming carbon neutral means that all organisations need to be calculating the size and scale of their digital carbon footprint. When you unpick the data, there is a surprising difference between areas like Scotland and the rest of the UK. In some cases, you could reduce scope-2 emissions by over 80% just by considering a different data centre location.”

Quarterly breakdown of carbon intensity South Scotland vs London 2020-2022:

South ScotlandLondon
Q1 202029.33191.30
Q2 202048.24168.41
Q3 202073.43208.67
Q4 202024.78166.74
Q1 202149.62173.01
Q2 202157.49132.87
Q3 202132.48106.99
Q4 202127.84194.18
Q1 202233.46186.27
Q2 202265.63207.95
Q3 202277.53231.86
Q4 202243.24182.21
Average 202254.97202.07
Average 2020-2246.92179.20

Source: National Grid

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