How Data Centers in China Are Heading Towards Carbon Neutrality

After Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that by 2030 China would cut emissions per unit of GDP by “at least” 65 percent compared with 2005 levels at the virtual Climate Ambition Summit, China has sped up its decarbonization and development of a low carbon economy.

The announcement was met with a mixed response with some environmental observers questioning whether China can go this far.

“The most challenging part of the shift is not the investment or magnitude of renewable capacity additions but the social transition that comes with it,” said Wood Mackenzie analyst Prakash Sharma.

In China, representing the information backbone of an increasingly digitalized society, data centers are still a net producer of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and major electrical power users. Research from Greenpeace and North China Electric Power University estimated that China’s data center consumed 161 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2018, equivalent to 2 percent of the country’s total usage. The power consumption is projected to grow 66 percent by 2023, to 267 billion kilowatt hours, which means 163 million tonnes of carbon emissions are produced assuming China’s energy mix remains the same.

Tier-I cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen have applied strict PUE rules as a method to push the industry towards greener operations. While Beijing has implemented a complete citywide ban on new data center construction, Shanghai only allows new data center with a PUE of 1.3 or below and refitted ones with a PUE of 1.4 or below. Meanwhile in Shenzhen, data centers with a PUE of over 1.4 receive no subsidies and those with less than 1.25 could obtain a subsidy of over 40 percent. Besides, central government policy on more use of renewable energy remains one of guidance and encouragement. China manufactures around 70 percent of solar energy equipment such as PV panels and modules.

Renewed Renewable Energy push

Different from traditional infrastructure like roads and railways, construction of “new infrastructure” in China is boosted to remain the primary driver of energy consumption in the foreseeable future. With data centers rapidly expanding and depleting environmental resources, the energy and climate impacts are being one of top considerations in China, as well as the world in general.

Intensive energy use can be costly both in terms of the data center’s operating budget (often representing more than 50 percent of the budget) and the impact on the environment.

Interest in renewable energy in China has been growing for several years, and leading Chinese companies have already undertaken the exploration of renewable energy use.

Research from Greenpeace and North China Electric Power University also states that China is outpacing the US in renewable energy, and has made huge progress in developing solar and wind projects.

However, nearly three quarters of (data centers’) power comes from coal, said Ye Ruiqi, a climate expert from Greenpeace. “To prevent this, China’s data centers need to decouple their electricity consumption from their carbon footprint by relying more on wind and solar energy. They can build their own renewable energy capacity, buy clean energy on the market or purchase green certificates to offset their emissions,” she added.

A Turning Point

In the backdrop of all this, China’s proposal to achieve net zero emissions by 2060 aims can be seen as a turning point. To fulfill the goal of carbon reduction and pollution prevention, China’s tech giants, state-owned energy companies and other important players are encouraged to make great efforts, from advancing technologies that produce less greenhouse gases or air pollution, accelerating energy transition and taking more social responsibilities.

In December 2020, China Three Gorges Corporation, a Chinese state-owned power company operating the China Yangtze Three Gorges Project (one of the biggest hydropower-complex projects in the world), announced plans to construct its Dongyue Temple Data Center. It is planned to build about 28,000 cabinets and invest 5.5 billion CNY (around $855.8 million). In Stage I, about 4,400 cabinets will be put into use by October, 2021, with an investment of 830 million CNY (around $ 129 million).

Responding to Chinese government’s pledge of “carbon neutrality” and the scheme of “New Infrastructure”, the group will further utilize the advantages of clean energy, stock land and real estate to promote the big data industry. Although it has been involved in the big data industry since 2017, it is the first time that the group announces its ambition to expand business with such massive spending on the ICT market.

Chinese private enterprises seem to have got off the block. On January 12, Chinese internet giant Tencent released its plan of achieving zero carbon emissions with the help of technology. With this announcement, Tencent became one of the first Internet companies to take action in achieving carbon neutrality.

“As China announces its carbon peak and carbon neutrality targets, Tencent will also accelerate its carbon neutrality plan. At the same time, we will also increase the exploration of the potential of cutting-edge technologies represented by artificial intelligence in coping with the major challenges of the earth, and make great strides to promote the application of technology in industrial energy conservation and emission reduction,” said Tencent’s founder Ma Huateng (also known as Pony Ma).

Chindata Group, a leading carrier-neutral hyperscale data center solution provider in China, also releases its roadmap to be carbon neutral for all its next-generation hyperscale data centers in China with its 100% renewable energy solution by 2030.

As China becomes a more developed economy, accelerated efforts of decarbonization to accelerate technology innovation and industrial upgrading are made. China’s transition to a low carbon economy is not only possible but can be a driver of high-quality growth while bolstering the development of digital transformation.

How Far Behind

Since 2018, institutions globally are moving towards achieving carbon neutrality, even as concerns have been raised at the way in which this is computed.

Although more Governments and businesses are committing to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the world is still falling far short of that goal, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in November in his latest push for a cleaner, greener future. Guterres reported that so far, the European Union, Japan and the Republic of Korea, along with more than 110 other countries, have made the pledge, while China is set to join them by 2060. “The window of opportunity is closing,” he warned.

In January, following the inauguration, President Biden signed an executive order at the White House, to reverse the previous administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 accord, which returned the United States to the worldwide fight to slow global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Alongside China, the United States is the world’s most carbon emitter.

Financial institutions have been accused of funding “dirty capital” into traditional power projects. All this is changing.

Goldman Sachs has ruled out direct finance for new or expanding thermal coal mines and coal-fired power plant projects worldwide, as well as direct finance for new Arctic oil exploration and production.

The policy makes a clear mention of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,

Goldman Sachs said in a statement. Further, the bank has also committed to a phase out of financing for significant thermal coal mining companies that do not have a diversification strategy. Goldman Sachs’s new policy tightens the screw on thermal coal by including underwriting, and explicitly committing to phase-out, not just reduction.

This is a crucial step forward, as other US bank coal finance restrictions have geographic loopholes, industry watchers said.

While other major banks have committed to reducing credit exposure to coal mining, their approach restricts only lending, ignoring the large amounts of capital the banks facilitate for the coal industry from the underwriting of issuances of stocks and bonds. Activists have been vehement in their criticism of global financial institutions, which they say are turning a blind eye and undermining the Paris Agreement when it comes to phasing out coal-based energy production. Other financial institutions have followed suit too.

Jason Opeña Disterhoft, Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network (RAN), said that Goldman Sachs’s updated policy shows that U.S. banks can draw red lines on oil and gas, and now other major U.S. banks, especially JPMorgan Chase – the world’s worst banker of fossil fuels by a wide margin – must improve on what Goldman has done.

“The writing was already on the wall for coal financing. Goldman Sachs’s new policy puts that writing in flashing neon,” he added.

According to research by non-profit organisations like Urgewald, BankTrack and 30 others, banks and other financial institutions from January 2017 to September 2019, they have provided lending finance and underwriting services to 258 coal plant developers in the world. According to Heffa Schuecking, director of Urgewald, this has amounted to channeling $745 billion.

Countries like India have also committed to reduce energy emissions intensity by 30 – 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and increase the share of non-fossil fuel energy to 40 percent of India’s energy mix by 2030.

Internationally, there is broad recognition of the need to reduce power use and emissions. This motivates greater efforts in developing future policies, and changes in regulation, taxation and electricity market. In the changing global landscape, data center, an increasingly critical part of the infrastructure for the digitalised society, have outsized importance in climate change mitigation efforts. This is the time when this industry needs to take responsibility and look at sustainability beyond lip service.

For more insights on China, do check out our digital event China Datacenter Market Insights happening on March 5!

Huawei launches Smart PV solution

Huawei FusionSolar, the Smart PV solution from Huawei has launched an integrated system for residential solar energy solution.
This announcement was made at its launch event in Ho Chi Minh City.
In 2020, Huawei delivered a total capacity of 4.3 GW inverters in Vietnam. To further develop the market, Huawei FusionSolar launches a new range of products for a complete integrated system for Vietnamese homeowners including Smart Energy Controller SUN2000-2-5KTL-L1 and SUN2000-5-10KTL-M1, ESS (Energy Storage System) LUNA2000-5/10/15-S0 and Smart PV Optimizer SUN2000-450W-P.

Alen Zhang, Sales Director of Huawei FusionSolar Vietnam said: “With 30 years of expertise in digital information technology, we’ve incorporated many latest ICT technologies for optimal power generation, in building the foundation for solar to become the main energy source. Vietnam is a country with high solar power potential and we look forward to contributing towards greater adoption of solar energy among Vietnamese families with Huawei FusionSolar solutions”.

When it comes to residential PV rooftop systems, residential installers are usually expected to provide homeowners with a robust, cost-effective, self-consumption system that remains highly efficient, flexible and easy to install, and comes with smart applications and reliable customer service. Huawei’s new range of products has been developed to focus on delivering three main benefits: optimal electricity cost, active safety and better experience.

Optimal Electricity Cost
PV energy generated by solar panels meets the electricity demand of homes in the daytime, and the surplus energy generated is used to charge batteries, which then discharges to meet peak electricity consumption in the night time. In this way, residential PV systems could achieve high self-consumption levels and this is where Huawei’s residential intelligent battery Smart String ESS LUNA2000-5/10/15-S0 could truly shine. Each battery pack has a built-in energy optimizer and supports independent charge and discharge management.

The AI-Powered Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) proactively mitigate fire risk with rapid shutdown technologies achieving zero voltage on the rooftop and zero arc risks for dual-layer protection. Huawei is the first in the industry to integrate the AI algorithm into AFCI, enabling three unique features: accurate arc fault detection via local neural network algorithm, speedy arc fault protection by inverter shutdown in 0.5s which is far below 2.5s which is stipulated in UL1699B, and pinpointing arc fault positioning, saving 80 per cent onsite troubleshooting time and cost.

The FusionSolar inverter portfolio consists of single-phase (Smart Energy Controller SUN2000-2-5KTL-L1) and three-phase (Smart Energy Controller SUN2000-5-10KTL-M1) products, both are compatible with Huawei’s SUN2000-450W-P power optimizer.

The Smart PV Management System, available in both web portal and mobile application, provides real-time energy flow and energy balance readings, and PV panel-level performance management.

NTT partners with GSPARX to build a low carbon future

Technology services major NTT Limited, has partnered with GSPARX, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), in an effort to increase its consumption of renewable energy.
TNB focuses on offering renewable energy solutions that can support a common low carbon future. The agreement will see GSPARX install a solar power panel system within NTT’s data center campus, for its administrative buildings, to support NTT’s power requirements. NTT said in a statement that its long-term environmental sustainability goals are in line with the Malaysian government’s vision to seek eco-friendly power sources such as solar energy.
Starting with an initial 1020-kilowatts peak capacity, NTT targets to expand up to a 6 Megawatt (MW) capacity through future phases of the project. “We are proud to be partnering with NTT in line with their aspirations for finding sustainable solutions to the social, economic and environmental challenges of our times. Not only is shifting to solar energy an environmentally friendly move, it is also important for global companies like NTT to have an alternate energy source to spur future business growth. Through GSPARX, TNB is here to offer high quality solar solutions that comply with international standards so that partners like NTT are able to enjoy renewable energy and realize their sustainability goals,” said Datuk Ir. Megat Jalaluddin Bin Megat Hassan, the Chief Retail Officer of TNB.
GSPARX will also build sheltered car parks which are equipped with solar panels at designated locations within NTT Cyberjaya’s premise.
Construction is expected to commence in Q1 2021, and the solar installations will be fully operational by Q3 of 2021, NTT said. Further, NTT expects to reduce its carbon footprint by up to 921 metric tons per year in line with its green initiative to promote the generation and utilization of sustainable energy. Eventually, it will expand to operate at a larger scale, further reducing the company’s carbon footprint, NTT said.

“NTT is one of 17 UN Global Goals Business Avengers, with a focus on sustainable cities and communities. We believe that technology holds the key to solving some of the world’s biggest problems. We’re constantly finding ways to use technology to minimize the impact of disruption on the world’s cities and communities. Therefore, the partnership with TNB is a crucial component of attaining this goal and ensuring that we create a more sustainable future for all,” comments Png Kim Meng, CEO – ASEAN at NTT Ltd.
The collaboration will see NTT decrease its fossil fuel consumption, thus reducing the carbon footprint of its business operations. Typically, a reduction in carbon footprint entails switching to sustainable and clean energy, consuming less electricity and favoring more energy saving measures. This decreases the amount of fossil fuels used to generate electricity thus limiting overall carbon emissions.

In this case, 921 metric tons is translated to approximately 199 cars taken off the road or 15,234 trees grown. In the long run, these numbers will be multiplied. Currently, electricity accounts for a significant share of NTT’s overall CO2 emissions. This is especially relevant in Malaysia where NTT continues to expand its Data Center business.

“Our shift to solar power brings us a step closer towards addressing corporate environmental sustainability concerns to reduce carbon footprint and CO2 emission. With additional solar capacity, NTT will be ready to respond to growing demands of its campus’ administrative needs that are powered by solar energy. We are proud to be the first global foreign ICT company to collaborate with TNB on this green project. We are very excited as this initiative has come in a very timely manner, as the new Cyberjaya 5 Data Center is scheduled to be available early this year,” said Henrick Choo, CEO – Malaysia at NTT Ltd.
This partnership with GSPARX and TNB is a welcome collaboration as the world continues to embrace greener electricity generation. NTT remains firmly committed to building a low carbon future through the use of solar energy. We will continue to pioneer remarkable new ways to drive sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges., added Choo.

Recently, HSBC installed 750 solar panels in its Hong Kong data center facility as part of its strategy to reduce carbon emissions.

You can deep dive into data centers and its various dynamics during W.Media’s Digital Week 2021, from February 23-26. Do check it out at https://w.media/digital-events/

Is South Korea following the green data center trend?

The green data center and sustainable solutions market is rapidly growing, as governments crack down on the growing energy consumption and carbon emissions caused by data centers.

In South Korea, data center operators like IBM, EhostIDC, LG CNS and Naver have all invested in green data center solutions, including raised flooring, solar power and outside air cooling and liquid cooling.

The Korea Information Technology Service Industry Association also launched the Green Data Center Certificate in the country, with the goal of reducing energy consumption and having more than 15% of local data centers obtain the certificate. 

But South Korea is still the seventh largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, and the twelfth largest emitter of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, data center providers are recycling waste heat for hyperscale facilities in Indonesia and exploring hydrogen-powered data centers in Singapore.

So, how does South Korea compare to the rest of Asia in implementing green data center technologies? Join industry experts on Thursday 13 August to discover the latest green data center solutions and how you can get involved in saving the environment!

Empowering efficient data centers in Korea

First up on our Green Data Center event, we will be joined by Chang Cho, a member of the Korea Data Center Council (KDCC) and Founder of Onion Technology, a leading DCIM solution provider in Korea.

As technical board member of Green Data Center Certificate, Mr. Cho will enlighten us on one of KDCC’s key activities to develop and operate Green Data Center Certification Programs to help improve data center energy efficiency and reduce national energy consumption.

Discover the global green data center trends

We will then be joined by Professor Wen Yonggang from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Professor Wen’s research interests include cloud computing, green data centers and machine learning.

Professor Wen will share a deep dive on the global green data center market and the artificial intelligence-based solutions that could solve the growing energy efficiency concerns.

Explore the state of green data centers in Asia Pacific

How does South Korea compare to other countries in Asia Pacific for implementing green data centers and the appetite for sustainable solutions in the region? And what is the future for the industry?

We will be joined by Jay Weon Khym, the Country Manager for Korea at Digital Realty who recently broke ground on their first data center in Korea. Digital Realty also recently partnered with the Science-Based Targets Initiative to bring emissions in-line with a “significantly below two-degree” climate change scenario by 2030.

Joining Mr. Khym will be Charles Lee, the Founder and Managing Director of OneAsia and Newtech Technology, providing all-rounded data center and facility management services. 

Newtech is committed to designing and constructing a new generation of data centers that minimise power consumption and carbon emissions, making Charles a perfect panellist to shed light on the state of green data centers in Asia.

To discover how you can be a part of Asia’s green data center future, sign up for our next W.Media event on Thursday 13 August!