Data centres urged to use renewable energy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 April, 2012, 12:00am


Energy-guzzling technology companies should start using renewable power to drive their data centres, and the government can help by setting up the infrastructure, a green group says.

The city is striving to become a regional data-centre hub, with demand for space to build such centres tipped to grow at about 10 per cent a year.

What was less noticeable was the amount of energy they needed - along with the pollution that followed, Greenpeace campaigner Yeung Man-yau said.

'These data centres use an awful lot of electricity, which in Hong Kong is mainly produced by burning coal,' Yeung said. 'That damages the environment without internet users knowing it.'

The government has been trying to entice cloud service providers - firms that host a vast range of software at lower cost for companies and consumers over the web or on private networks. Customers do not pay for a licence for individual software but for how much they use and the storage space they need. Computing giants such as Google are building data centres in the city to host such resources.

The power usage of a high-tier data centre can be as much as 15 times that of a building with 320 flats, Commerce and Economic Development Bureau data shows. One reason is the need for data storage systems to be kept in a temperature-controlled environment using air conditioners.

Consultants for the bureau have advised that demand for data centre space will grow 9.8 per cent a year from 2009 to 2015.

'Hongkongers haven't begun talking about it yet, mostly because they don't see what is done behind closed doors,' Yeung said. 'As more and more data centres sprout up in our community, their power usage will have a very significant impact in the offline world.' He suggested the government set up the infrastructure for wind and solar power and sell renewable energy to the IT sector.

Pacnet, the operator of Asia's largest private submarine cable network, unveiled plans last month to speed up development of a US$44 million data centre facility in Tseung Kwan O. Google and NNT Com Asia are also setting up centres in the district.