Electricity consumption for China’s internet industry 'to increase by two thirds by 2023'

By agency reporter
September 10, 2019

China’s internet data centre industry emitted an estimated 99 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018, new research from Greenpeace East Asia and the North China Electric Power University shows. Researchers found that increasing the sector’s renewable energy intake by seven per cent over the next five years would reduce carbon emissions by 16 million tonnes.

“Power market reforms and rapid growth in wind and solar power have created unprecedented opportunities for China’s internet giants to procure clean energy. The data centre sector can and should play a leading role in China’s energy transition from heavy reliance on coal to renewable energy”, said Greenpeace East Asia climate and energy campaigner Ye Ruiqi.

Data centres are networks of computer servers that host our emails, photos, videos, online transactions and more. Electricity consumption from China’s data centre industry is on track to jump by two thirds over the next five years. By 2023, the sector is projected to consume 267 TWh of electricity, more than Australia’s total 2018 electricity consumption. China’s data centre industry is currently powered 73 per cent by coal.

The report outlines two scenarios for future data centre sector emissions from 2019 to 2023. If the data centre sector’s renewable energy intake remains steady at 23 per cent, CO2 emissions from the industry are projected to reach 163 million tonnes by 2023. However, if the sector’s renewable energy intake increases to 30 per cent, 16 million tonnes of carbon emissions can be avoided by 2023, equal to the emissions from roughly 10 million round-trip transatlantic flights. 

Researchers identified three pathways for data centre companies to increase their renewable energy intake – by building or investing in renewable projects, procuring clean power directly from renewable energy generators, and purchasing green power certificates. As China’s power market reforms deepen, a growing number of procurement mechanisms will become available.

“While China’s data centre industry has made significant improvements in terms of energy efficiency, the industry’s massive carbon footprint is proof that much more action is needed to increase reliance on clean energy sources. There is a clear path toward renewable energy-powered data centres in China and an opportunity for innovative companies to lead the way”, said Ye.

* Read Powering the Cloud: How China’s Internet Industry Can Shift to Renewable Energy here

* Greenpeace International https://www.greenpeace.org/international/


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