Asia’s power landscape is set to expand, in-line with the fast-growing pace of digital transformation. Businesses and data centre operators will look towards renewable energy to meet surging energy demand arising from growing data transmission, while avoiding a corresponding increase in its environmental impact.
We interviewed Eaton’s Technology Manager – Janne Paananen and requested insights on data centre landscape and the upcoming trends in Asia and Europe, challenges for existing power infrastructure, international data standards, green data centres and more. Read on.
1. Powering Asia’s digital economy ambitions: What are some challenges for existing power infrastructure?
One of the biggest challenges today is ensuring that existing power infrastructure can meet the growing demand for energy in Asia. It’s predicted that by 2040, Asia will dominate global energy demand. This will be driven by the region’s growing Internet economy – in Southeast Asia, the Internet economy is likely to reach an astounding US$300billion by 2025.
As the region moves into an internet-enabled world where ‘always-on’ is the new norm, data centres will play an increasingly important role in maintaining the uptime of critical infrastructures and systems. To meet this surging demand, businesses will need to invest in new and robust power infrastructures, or identify cost-effective ways to retrofit legacy infrastructures.
Improving universal energy access will also continue to be a challenge for many nations in Asia, where over 700 million people live without access to electricity. As a result of factors ranging from geographic inaccessibility to a lack of resources, many communities still face challenges connecting to the main grid. Exploring the use of sustainable, off-grid solutions such as solar mini-grids and microgrids will be critical to facilitating energy access for these communities.
2. How has the data centre landscape in Asia and Europe evolved? Any upcoming trends?
Globally, the data centre market has been growing exponentially, as applications such as cloud services, data analytics and greater connectivity worldwide drive the surging demand.
In recent years, there has been increased attention on Singapore and the surrounding ASEAN region as a growing data centre hub. In 2018, APAC’s data centre market overtook the EMEA market, and is expected to become the world’s largest by 2021. The Singapore data centre market in particular, which holds about 50% of Southeast Asia’s data centre capacity, attracted US$550 million of the US$1.37 billion investment in total real estate investment between 2018 – 2019. In the face of changing local regulations around data protection and privacy as well as increasing costs, investors are also starting to look into neighbouring ASEAN countries, such as Indonesia and Vietnam for new growth opportunities.
Comparatively, Europe’s data centre market is more mature and is characterised by growth in both traditional growth markets and new growth regions. Europe’s data centre growth trajectory is being shaped by the shift from on-site data centres towards collocated data centres. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of enterprises will shut down their traditional data centres. Hyperscale operators will also drive the demand for collocated providers, as building new facilities requires time, and may not take place fast enough to meet the demand for their services.
3. How do Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems ensure business continuity and environmental sustainability when powering high-energy infrastructures?
Smart energy management in data centres is critical to business continuity. For many businesses that rely on data centres, anything less than the highest degree of uptime possible is unfavourable. Depending on the industry, outages can result in profit loss, the disruption of business operations and for organisations such as hospitals, critical life services. Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems ensure that a steady, reliable power supply keeps critical, high-energy infrastructures running.
Advancements in UPS technology is making Asia’s transition to the greater use of renewables a more achievable goal for many businesses. For instance, Eaton’s EnergyAware UPS technology equips UPS with energy management capabilities, allowing it to provide a continuous power supply to infrastructures, and balance the power system in the event of a power outage. More importantly, it has the ability to detect and stabilise fluctuations in power grids caused by the intermittent nature of renewable energy. Such technology is especially critical as the world seeks to increase the proportion of renewables in the energy mix.
4. What is the appetite for green data centres in Asia (in terms of growth potential and resilience in meeting the needs of the digital economy)?
Asia’s power landscape is set to expand, in-line with the fast-growing pace of digital transformation. According to IDC, organisations in the region are predicted to spend a staggering US$375.8 billion on digital transformation this year. Businesses and data centre operators will look towards renewable energy to meet surging energy demand arising from growing data transmission, while avoiding a corresponding increase in its environmental impact.
While Asia remains heavily reliant on coal as a primary energy source, investment in renewables has been encouraging. In 2017, Asia accounted for almost two-thirds of the global increase in renewable energy generating capacity, which will likely have a spill over effect on data centres. Some of the first steps have been taken in Singapore, where the government has established a Green Data Centre Standard to help organisations establish systems and processes to improve data centre energy efficiency, and undergoes periodic revisions to remain relevant.
As energy expenditures from running a data centre continue to increase, businesses will seek to improve energy efficiency and reduce operating costs. Demand for green data centres in Asia is therefore set to grow. This can be supported with cheaper renewable energy and improved power management tools, such as monitoring software and UPS technology to help data centres enhance efficiency and adopt more renewable energy, without compromising on power quality.
5. What are your thoughts on international standards for data centres?
International standards for data centre energy efficiency and green certifications are important in the global push towards sustainable goals, given their roles in safeguarding against energy wastage. Due to the wide range of data centre designs, it is challenging to create a common standard that can cater to different purposes, sizes, forms and environments of data centres. After all, the optimal technical solution for one data centre may not apply to others.
Nevertheless, outlining these standards and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for data centres can help to establish best practices for the industry. Governmental regulatory bodies, businesses and data centre operators can work together to determine which standards are appropriate, and comply with them in order to work towards shared environmental sustainability goals.
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