MALAYSIA: It is commendable that Singapore has set sustainability standards and guidelines for data centres (DCs) in Singapore, according to a spokesperson from EcoKnights, a non-government organisation (NGO) in Malaysia.
On 8 June 2023, Singapore launched one of the world’s first standards for DCs to operate at higher temperature settings while optimising energy efficiency in tropical climates.
The award-winning NGO said the city-state’s goal is achievable.
“Data centres consume huge amounts of energy 24/7 so they need to cool down all the time. In tropical climates, cooling is going to cost a lot.”
“Japan has built net-zero data centres, green data centres are not something new, it is already being done. But there isn’t any standard or guidelines for data centres in a tropical climate,” she told The Gutzy Asia.
The announcement by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) aims to help DCs develop a roadmap to support the gradual increase in the DC operating temperatures to 26°C and above.
This could lead to DCs potentially benefiting from a 2% to 5% cooling energy savings, with every 1°C increase in the DC operating temperature.
Green data centres
Data centres in Asean are projected to experience fast-paced growth to meet people’s growing demands, such as the need for more cloud storage.
“There are many good examples out there to demonstrate how data centres are walking the talk of sustainability.
“For example, CelcomDigi’s data centre in Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, is a green data centre, it started in 2011,” she said.
According to Digi, its data centre’s building design incorporates environmental-friendly features such as no raised floors, dedicated cooling for server racks to maximise cooling efficiencies, rainwater harvesting, solar reflective roof paint coating, and a steel formwork system to reduce timber usage.
Its most visually notable feature is its vertical vegetated wall that acts as an effective barrier against solar radiation and insulates the building, thus significantly reducing heat build-up and cooling energy costs.
“The demand for green DCs is growing in interest now.”
“I think, soon, companies like Google and Amazon will only work with green data centres as part of their ESG compliance. If large companies are required to comply, it will come to smaller companies soon.”
“Listed companies have no choice but to comply with ESG in their business operations and choose green data centres as their business partners,” said EcoKnight spokesperson, adding that there would be new DCs in Cyberjaya and Johor in Malaysia, both to be set up by foreign companies.
Sustainability standards for data centres
Globally, there is a consensus among DC operators on the need to operate their DCs sustainably.
There is also increased awareness that it is possible to operate DCs at higher temperatures while achieving optimal results.
However, there is a lack of established industry guidelines on how to safely raise DCs’ operating temperatures in a tropical climate, and at higher humidity levels.
Singapore’s new standard was developed against this background and following consultation with the industry.
“The truth is you cannot stop data centres from growing because we are all required to use mobile networks, internet, and cloud storage.”
“I hope this announcement by Singapore triggered the awareness of other ASEAN countries. Green data centres will attract big investment to the country. I hope Malaysia will have some standard for data centres too.”
“My aspiration is that other countries will follow suit because they have the same tropical climate. If we want to attract investors, we should look at developing green data centres as an opportunity to attract big investors,” she said.
Data centres in Singapore
Data Centres (DC) are important enablers of the digital economy. However, DCs are also intensive users of resources like land, water, and energy, contributing to our carbon footprint.
In a typical data centre, cooling systems account for up to 40% of total energy consumption with many operators choosing to operate their equipment at temperatures of 22°C and below.
The cooling of DCs in a warmer tropical climate environment presents additional challenges as more energy is used to operate the cooling systems.
As demand for DCs increases, energy efficiency will be critical for ensuring the sustainable growth of the industry.
IMDA has worked with several DC operators in Singapore to use this new standard to reduce energy use.
For example, Digital Realty has referenced this standard and successfully increased their DC operating temperatures by 2°C at two of their 4.5 megawatts data halls, which translates to a reduction of approximately 2% to 3% total energy usage in these data halls over the trial period to-date.
The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) has also begun experimenting with higher temperatures in a government DC, as part of their sustainability initiative.
Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong once said in Parliament Singapore that the country welcomed DC investments, but they were selective of the DCs they could accommodate.
“In particular, we seek anchor data centres which are best in class in terms of resource efficiency, which can contribute towards Singapore’s economic and strategic objectives,” he said.