by Carolyn Harrington    22 October 2021

Data centers play a critical role in powering Asia’s sustainability agenda.

Let’s talk energy: driving Asia’s sustainability agenda forward with purpose.

Contrary to popular belief, there has always been a strong business case for companies to embrace sustainability because healthy business ecosystems are only possible with resilient supply chains and resources. A growing awareness of this simple principle in the business community and an increasingly vocal generation of eco conscious consumers is the driving momentum for renewable energy.

Beyond just buying into what is already available or planned, future forward companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft are championing the concept of “additionality,” by supporting truly new renewable generation sources to claim they are making a material impact on displacing global emissions and replacing conventional sources on the grid.

What is so compelling about “additionality” against the backdrop of Asia’s growing energy demands and how can businesses establish themselves as thought leaders with it? We explore these answers below.

Asia’s growing energy demands

The energy market in Southeast Asia is growing rapidly, with no stop sign in sight. Energy per capita in emerging and developing Asia has grown by almost 18% within the past decade, a stark contrast to a 4.8% fall in advanced economies.

As economies in Asia adapt to an increasingly digital future, there will be a growing reliance for robust digital infrastructures and networks to secure, transport and process the large volumes of data that power the way we work, live and play.

This highlights the role that data centers, the custodians of our data, play in managing and processing this growing pool of data. Who better to look to than tech giants and data center players who are now in the driver’s seat in managing Asia’s transition to renewable energy?

From additionality to impact

Powering Asia’s sustainability agenda are tech giants such as Microsoft, which recently announced its plans to become carbon negative by 2030 with a well thought out program to cut carbon emissions for its entire supply and value chain and build a new $1 billion climate innovation fund aimed at developing carbon reduction and removal technologies.

Sustainability has become an overused buzzword. Businesses need to do more to illustrate how they are truly moving the needle. One way companies such as Microsoft are doing this is by creating “additionality” and exploring novel ways to mitigate carbon emissions.

Aside from Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund which aims to develop carbon reduction and removal technologies, Apple has just announced that its 43 data centres across the world are 100% renewables powered. After six years of building and locating renewable energy sources, Microsoft is now putting this into its power grid to offset its energy consumption.

Amazon has launched a new 115-megawatt (MW) wind farm project in Ireland to support their cloud arm, Amazon Web Services’ data centers in the country, starting in 2022.

These “additionality” initiatives showcase the efforts and commitments of businesses in not only raising awareness for sustainability and climate change issues but also turning their rhetoric into action and powering economies with the next generation of renewable energy sources.

However even the world’s biggest companies cannot make the sustainable shift alone. For Asia to transition to renewable energy, more companies need to get onboard this idea and explore how to invest and move the needle themselves with “additionality.”

The role that data centers play in creating additionality in emerging markets

Asia is a highly fragmented region in the adoption of renewable energy. The different maturities in infrastructure, resources, perception of the need for renewable energy and sustainability across the markets mean that there is not a one size fits all solution.

This highlights the importance for governments and energy providers to work together with data centre players who are experts in energy conservation to share their knowledge and create incentives which work for all stakeholder groups.

From an operational point of view, businesses should also work with data center partners who are contributing to “additionality” by being directly powered by renewable energy sources. As power driven facilities, data centers consume a large volume of data themselves and as a result, are an integral part of driving the renewable energy sector. By working with data centers who purchase and run their operations from renewable energy sources, businesses can earn the right to say they have taken a holistic approach to sustainability.

Everyone has a role to play to move the mark on sustainability in Asia. Leading by example, tech giants have taken their first steps in making this possible by supporting and developing renewable generation sources across their business and the wider industry, from powering their operations with renewables and investing in new innovations.

While tech giants are leading the sustainability conversation by creating additionality, it is important that companies of all sizes support initiatives like these and put sustainability at the forefront of their strategy.

At SpaceDC, we have been introducing best practices and cutting edge technologies to the Tier 2 markets. Data centres in these emerging economies should tap into the technological advancements for sustainable growth, especially in today’s digital economy. Having said that, governments also need to support data centre operators with adequate legislation and incentives and establish common sustainability standards within the sector.

As we move forward in the digital age, the data centre sector is a part of broader society and it has the potential to be a force for great good and change, that potential needs to be realised in the face of global disruptions, particularly for Tier 2 markets.

We are excited to see how data centres will progress in APAC, particularly how a more united force of change between each country can benefit the wider economy in the region.

By addressing the key challenges in its infrastructure connectivity and equipping with a deeper understanding of each country’s data centre landscape, Tier 2 markets in APAC will continue to be the hotbed for data centre expansion and will eventually blur the existing tiering system across the region.

Carolyn Harrington
Chief Operations Officer