Sustaining Transformation In Thailand

Green data centers might just be the key to Thailand's balancing of digitisation and sustainability. Image Credit: Global Compliance News

Thailand is a bit of a paradox when it comes to green efforts. In a 2021 national survey, four in five Thais, or more specifically 82 per cent, were reportedly happy and supportive of sustainable brands and businesses, with further research indicating that the Thai public held positive attitudes towards ESG practices from both a corporate and socially responsible perspective. 

On Second Thought…

Despite the good news, the same 2021 survey revealed a contrasting outlook on the government. Of the survey respondents, more than half believed that the Thai administration had the responsibility of prioritising sustainability issues on the national agenda, but a mere 30 per cent had faith in the state’s living up to ESG expectations. Yet, in a 2022 Global Sustainability Index report, the nation emerged as the ASEAN’s regional leader in willingness to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, trailed by Vietnam and Singapore respectively. 

Weirdly, this success comes about as a red herring of sorts; Thailand’s achievement in its ranking stems from the country’s reaching of poverty reduction, education, sanitation and industry innovation goals- not so much in the fields of environmental sustainability. It would be sinful to strip away credit from the Thai’s admirable progress, but the fact remains- the nation is still lacking in terms of green initiatives.

Versatile, Popular, And Difficult

When it comes to environmental initiatives, the Thai spotlight has historically been on water sanitation and sewage treatment, both of which have been consistently upgraded over the years. Thai water treatment plants are safe and modern, but sections of the pipe systems running underground are old and dodgy, leading tourists to opt for purchasing risk-free bottled water out of safety. Another environmental crackdown is the Thai government’s banning of four different types of single-use plastics, a measure announced to directly combat one of Asia’s worst plastic waste problems. 

The ever-versatile and humble plastic bag accounts for around 80 per cent of Thailand’s plastic waste, of which over 60 per cent is either littered or improperly disposed of. The problem is both societal and administrative; plastic bags are understandably too universal to not be utilised- the issue lies with disposal. Rubbish is often not sorted properly, complicating the existing challenges of plastic waste management. 

Hand In Hand

Thailand’s orthodox approach in placing its residents first is blameless, but more attention has to be paid to infrastructural investment as a means to sustainable development. In October this year, the Thai Board of Investment (BOI) announced the approval of its new Investment Promotion Strategy for the next five years, with a pivot towards technological advancement and green industries among others. The new strategy has undoubtedly been launched to support Thailand 4.0, as the nation’s e-commerce industry and digitisation continues to take off. 

With a reported valuation of $660 million U.S. dollars in 2021 and a forecasted $1.03 billion U.S. dollar valuation by 2027, the Thai data center market is flourishing to say the least. Bangkok has been a proven hotspot for colocation facilities and the accelerating adoption of cloud-based services in the country has led investors to view the Thai market with exciting potential. In recognition of the attention from investors, the Thai government has granted data centers VAT exemption, as long as a set of very fulfillable conditions are abided by. With the current VAT levied at 7 per cent, the move is competitive and wise; the country understands the potential of the Southeast Asian peninsula in the eyes of investors and does not want to be overshadowed by its neighbours.  

The New Standard

Green data centers offer a dovetailing of objectives for the Thai government and investors. Sustainable data centers have made massive strides in not only energy efficiency, but across a multitude of factors. The latest generation of servers are able to carry out the sending, receiving and storing of data rapidly, and overall improvement to storage devices and data infrastructure have remarkably kept global data center energy usage numbers flat since 2015, despite the gargantuan growth in digitisation from 2010 to 2022. The narrative of data centers as energy guzzlers is still around, but waning. Technological advancement, prioritisation of cooling solutions and upgraded analytics to determine optimum energy usage have kept  newer data centers in line with emission quotas, and the future of the industry looks sustainable. 

The blossoming Thai digital movement, infrastructural and green ambition pairs nicely with investor motivations, as data centers look to continue innovating towards lower PUE numbers. Already, SuperNap, one of Southeast Asia’s leading data center providers and a hyperscale facility operator in Thailand has announced an agreement to collaborate with WHA Utilities and Power (WHAUP), the nation’s leading utility provider. The move will see an investment in a joint solar farm, which will reduce electricity costs and offset 18,250 tons of CO2 emission. 

A Change Of Heart- Maybe In A Decade

Essentially, data center sustainability is a balancing act of sorts; operators have to strike the right balance between offsetting a healthily growing digital economy whilst keeping carbon emissions and overall energy and water consumption in check. Green data centers can hardly be referred to as a trend in 2022- they are the new standard. The VAT exemption is a step in the right direction, and investors ought to make full use of Thailand’s objectives to boost data infrastructure and contribute to sustainability intentions. The benefits are mutual and if cards are played right, a national survey in 2031 might reveal a reformed, improved public opinion of the government’s prioritising of sustainability efforts. 

Join the discussion on Thailand’s journey to sustainability at the upcoming W.Media Thailand Cloud and Data Center 2022 convention at the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok on November 10th. The event will see investors, facility operators, cloud players and tech experts all networking and talking about the latest trends, challenges and opportunities as Thailand’s digital transformation continues to take off. Don’t miss out on the industry keynote of the year. 

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