Data center operators in Singapore seek more clarity on green roadmap as digital demands grows



Data center operators in Singapore aiming to become more environmentally friendly are seeking clearer guidance on a roadmap to reduce energy consumption.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority plans to launch the green data center roadmap later this month, incorporating industry feedback to help data centers become more sustainable. The initiative comes as new technologies drive the demand for more powerful and energy-intensive computing.

Transforming data centers in Singapore

Data centers have a significant carbon footprint due to the substantial energy required to power cooling systems, ensuring equipment operates within a specific temperature range, which can lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Reports estimate that data centers globally contribute to about 1% to 5 % of greenhouse gas emissions.

Singapore, among other countries, is working to transform its data centers. The country prioritizes sustainable growth and low carbon emissions, making it selective about constructing new data centers. As part of the Digital Connectivity Blueprint released last June, pioneering a roadmap for green data center growth is a key priority to enhance the country's digital infrastructure.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary noted that industry partners have responded positively to the green roadmap initiative. "They understand that we need to move in this direction, requiring more green energy directed towards data centers, achieving this will allow the data center industry in Singapore to grow, supporting all associated businesses." he said.

Accurate measurement for energy efficiency

In 2020, data centers accounted for around 7% of Singapore’s total electricity consumption, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Singapore has 87 facilities with 5,103,143 square feet and 886 MW.

The top providers are ST Telemedia Global Data Centers (STT GDC) with 9 sites and Amazon AWS with 8 facilities, with popular facilities including Singtel DC West and Equinix Singapore SG3.

Experts emphasize that a more sustainable future requires greater public awareness. Some data centers, like Digital Realty, can already reduce carbon emissions, but sourcing green energy remains a challenge.

Jon Curry, vice president of Asia Pacific operations at Digital Realty, called for clarity on the green data center roadmap due to Singapore’s limited renewable energy capabilities.

"Bringing green energy from outside Singapore and having certainty over those green pathways will help us understand the Singapore government's intentions, enabling Digital Realty to take the next step in future investments," he added.

Another industry player highlighted the importance of standards to accurately measure energy efficiency, given the difficulty in gauging the true impact of these facilities. "If we can illuminate the energy consumption at the chip level and trace it back to the data center, we will have a transparent and open method to gauge energy efficiency," said Tim Rosenfield, co-CEO of Sustainable Metal Cloud and Firmus.

Power purchase agreements

Other companies choose power purchase agreements (PPA) to drive transformation. Equinix has entered into a solar PPA with Sembcorp in Singapore to supply renewable energy to its data center.

Sembcorp Power will provide Equinix with a maximum capacity of 75 MWp from its solar assets and 30 MW from its gas-power generation portfolio for up to 18 years.

The company will be offtaking from the Housing Development Board’s (HDB) SolarNova 7 program, which will see solar panels installed across 1,290 HDB blocks and 99 government sites. The project is set to launch in 2027.

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