Net zero targets could be helped by choosing Scotland as a location for datacentres, new research has shown.

Analysis of National Grid figures has revealed that the south of Scotland, in particular, has the second lowest ‘carbon intensity’ of any part of the country when it comes to electricity generation.

According to numbers crunched by DataVita – a Scottish datacentre and multi-cloud services provider, and digital sustainability consultancy Posetiv – energy used in the south of Scotland, including the central belt, is nearly four times cleaner than London’s.

‘Carbon intensity’ is a measure of the CO2 emissions related to electricity generation.

The analysis found that South Scotland 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 3.67 times 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. North East England scored the lowest of any region in 2022 with 35.3 gCO2e/kWh.

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 per cent – by using a datacentre 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 per cent just by considering a different datacentre location.”