Data centres: Chinese local governments should prevent “blind and disorderly development”

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Data centres: Chinese local governments should prevent “blind and disorderly development”
Data centres: Chinese local governments should prevent “blind and disorderly development”

Data centres and 5G are the most critical link when it comes to saving energy and reducing consumption of new infrastructure

As China seeks to reduce carbon emissions from the country’s technology and communications sector, local governments in China should prevent the “blind and disorderly development” of power-hungry data centres, Beijing said on Wednesday, 8 December.

For China to fulfil its pledge of peaking carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060, reducing the dependence of data centres and 5G networks on coal-fired power plants was essential, according to a newly published plan.

“Data centres and 5G are the most critical link when it comes to saving energy and reducing consumption of new infrastructure”, said the plan authored by the National Development and Reform Commission and government departments focused on cyberspace, renewable energy and telecommunications.

Fitted with server racks, data centres that store and process internet data consume large amounts of energy to cool their computer networks. The related power costs represent up to 70 per cent of operating expenses, according to statistics from Greenpeace.

From 200 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2020, estimated electricity consumption from China’s data-centres and 5G base stations could almost quadruple with more than 60 per cent sourced from coal-fired power stations to 782 billion kWh by 2035, said Greenpeace.

For the construction of data-centres lying outside areas earmarked by Beijing as national hubs, the plan published on Wednesday calls on local governments to refrain from providing incentives to companies.

“All localities must strengthen overall guidance for the construction of data centres, and resolutely avoid the blind and disorderly development of data-centres”, said the plan.

Additional measures include improving the layout of data centres by outsourcing some of the processing work they do from the highly developed eastern region to China’s underdeveloped west, where renewable energy sources are more abundant.

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