SEA: does data centre growth equal sustainability?
Industry experts believe South East Asia is becoming one of the fastest-growing data centre hubs globally, with providers keen to fulfil demands expected by tech-centric enterprises.
Data supplied by Cushman & Wakefield, a global commercial real estate services firm, suggests the market could be worth US$3.4 billion by 2024.
But while other regions are focussing on the sustainability of facilities, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region’s environmental policies remain a work in progress.
According to a survey carried out by , Asia Pacific’s leading media organisation on sustainable development, 66% of respondents said greater sustainability and energy efficiency were important considerations when selecting data centre providers.
However, the report, which involved 208 digital reality enterprises across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, also found that a lack of environmental awareness, capital, and cooperation from stakeholders is obstructing an industry-wide drive to create sustainable data facilities. Those concerns were also considered less important than reliability, security, cost-effectiveness, scalability, and network connectivity.
The findings are at odds with other sectors of the industry that are investing heavily in sustainability. Leading tech companies including Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, are all ensuring their latest facilities comply with international climate agreements that utilise low-cost renewable energy, natural cooling systems and have low to zero-emissions targets.
Cooling systems require an estimated 40% of the total power required to run a data centre effectively. Many companies choose facilities in colder climates for this exact reason. Energy-efficient cooling technologies and processes like liquid cooling represent an important opportunity for data centre providers to lower energy use and expense.
Increasingly, clients globally are demanding higher standards of sustainability, with ambitious carbon-neutral footprints as more advanced energy-efficient technology is developed. Data showed 89% of respondents believed sustainability would be an essential consideration when selecting data centre services in 2025.
, managing director of Eco-Business, which conducted the study on behalf of Digital Realty, explained, “Southeast Asia is home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and its rapid development will accelerate the demand for data services.”
She added, “Against this backdrop, it is crucial that data centre providers find a way to meet this need while ensuring they are playing a part in helping countries meet their climate targets,” said Cheam.
Digital Realty’s senior director of sustainability, Aaron Binkley, agreed, commenting, “It is encouraging to see that most customers in the region view sustainability as a key consideration when choosing a data centre provider. We believe cooling technology will be a game-changer for data centres, especially in Southeast Asia’s tropical climate.”
DEWA, Huawei to build Dubai’s largest green data centre
Moro Hub, a subsidiary of the digital arm of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), signed an agreement with Chinese tech giant Huawei over the weekend to build a new hyperscale data centre in the city. Taking advantage of an abundance of solar power available in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the new facility will be 100% powered by renewable electricity generated by photovoltaic infrastructure located within the Emirates.
With the potential to reach a capacity of 100 MW upon full buildout, the facility is set to become the largest solar-powered, Uptime Institute Tier III-certified green data centre in the Middle East and Africa.
The project is part of the Dubai 10x initiative launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and will support the Emirate’s goal of developing into “a city of the future, putting it 10 years ahead of other global cities,” according to Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of the DEWA.
The signing event, attended by HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA, and Mr Charles Yang, President of Huawei Middle East, and signed by Marwan Bin Haidar, Vice Chairman and Group CEO Digital DEWA and Mr Jerry Liu, CEO of Huawei UAE - Courtesy of DEWA
Al Tayer added that the project, “meets our ambition to deliver sustainable digital transformation and anticipate and shape the future,” and “supports the UAE Centennial 2071 to make the UAE the world's leading nation and the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030.”
The facility will, according to Al Tayer, also support Dubai’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions by 16% before the end of the year, as well as its goal of meeting 75% of the city’s power demands with clean energy by 2050, and “significantly aids DEWA’s progress towards sustainable development.”
Moro Hub already operates one green data centre in the Emirate, which came online in October of 2020. The facility was the first Tier-III green data centre to come online in the Middle East.
Charles Yang, President of Huawei Middle East, was also present at the signing ceremony held on Saturday. He commented that the new association between Huawei and the DEWA, “allows us to strengthen our partnership with Moro Hub and take part in fortifying the UAE's sustainable development goals.”