Beijing warns of disorderly construction of data centers, IT News, ET CIO

Local governments in China should prevent the “indiscriminate and disorderly development” of power-hungry data centers, Beijing said Wednesday as it seeks to reduce carbon emissions from the country’s technology and communications sector.

Reducing the reliance of data centers and 5G networks on coal-fired power plants was essential for China to fulfill its commitment to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, according to a recently published plan.

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

Data centers, equipped with racks of servers that store and process Internet data, consume large amounts of energy to cool their computer networks. The associated electricity costs represent up to 70% of operating expenses, according to statistics from Greenpeace.

The estimated electricity consumption of China’s 5G data centers and base stations could nearly quadruple from 200 billion kilowatt-hours in 2020 – of which more than 60% comes from coal-fired power plants – to 782 billion kWh in 2020. by 2035, Greenpeace said.

The plan released on Wednesday calls on local governments to refrain from providing incentives to companies to build data centers outside areas designated by Beijing as national hubs.

“All localities must strengthen the general guidelines for the construction of data centers and resolutely avoid the indiscriminate and disorderly development of data centers,” says the plan.

Further steps include improving the configuration of data centers by outsourcing some of the processing work they do from the highly developed eastern region to underdeveloped western China, where renewable energy sources are more abundant.

(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; editing by Jane Wardell)