South Africa Calls for Data Centres to Cut Grid Reliance

The African data centre market is expected to swell to US$3bn by 2025
South Africa wants data centre providers to reduce their dependence on the national power grid, as part of a wider national data and cloud strategy

As power and energy demands continue to rise across the African continent, South Africa is eager for the data centre providers it serves to reduce their dependence on the national power grid.

Announced by South Africa’s Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), data centres across the country will be encouraged to conserve energy. The report, National Policy on Cloud and Data, argues that water and electricity constraints within the region, in connection with high data centre demand, mean that data centre hosts and suppliers should have water and electricity backup to avoid service disruptions and reduce pressure on the grids. 

“Currently, South Africa faces electricity supply challenges,” the report says. “Given that data centres operate 24 hours a day and consume vast amounts of electricity, reliance solely on the national grid may be insufficient. Therefore, it is crucial for data centre owners and operators to implement additional alternative energy resources to prevent operational disruptions.”

Reducing grid reliance to meet environmental laws

The data centre market across Africa is expected to double by 2026, on account of such huge customer demands for technology booming throughout the region. In particular, countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco are poised to become key markets as they continue to attract investment and digital infrastructure development opportunities.

Likewise, the African data centre market is expected to swell to US$3bn by 2025.

Communications minister Mondli Gungubele has emphasised in the wake of the report being published that data centres will need to have backup power and water sources due to the country’s ongoing electricity issues. The policy suggests the government should also offer incentives for water and energy conservation to help data centres operate smoothly without putting too much pressure on national resources.

This strategy could be necessary in the near future, according to the report, in order to maintain continuous data centre operations within South Africa. Reducing dependency on national network grids will ensure that data centres will better adhere to environmental laws.

Data Centres operating within South Africa will be required to comply with the following regulations: (Source: National Policy on Data and Cloud 2024)
  • Must be built and operated in adherence to environmental legislation and building by-laws
  • Must not be built in restricted areas (ie. heritage sites, national key points, or land reform areas)
  • Must not be located in areas prone to natural disasters
  • Must display or be able to provide verifiable certification credentials to all potential customers
  • Data centres used by the government should comply with a fault-tolerant design that provides a minimum uptime of 99.995%

Globally, data centres currently run 24/7 and use a lot of electricity. As a result, they are no longer able to solely depend on some national grids anymore. 

In order to fully benefit from the digital economy, it is being recommended that businesses invest in broadband infrastructure, data centres and disruptive technologies such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) in order to remain competitive.

The National Policy on Cloud and Data suggests these investments should be supported by clear IT security protocols, cybersecurity measures and a data governance framework in order to encourage responsible innovation.

“This announcement represents a significant stride in our initiative to energise South African data centres sustainably, advancing our objective of achieving carbon neutrality,” comments so-to-be former Africa Data Centres CEO Tesh Durvasula.

As data centres significantly rely on cooling systems and large water use, sustainability issues are continuing to emerge throughout the sector. South Africa, alongside many other nations around the world, are having to pursue energy supply solutions that are more reliable and ensure that data centres are not contributing too many carbon emissions moving forward.

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