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Tech giants launch Net Zero Innovation Hub for Data Centres

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Danfoss, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Schneider Electric have joined forces in setting up a new innovation hub to bring together the European data centre sector to find concrete solutions to accelerate the green transition.

  • Leading global tech companies are attempting to work together to address the growing energy demand driven by accelerating digitalisation, machine learning and AI.
  • Energy demand has grown 25x in the last decade, driven by increased digitalisation and growth in AI, machine learning and cloud computing. 
  • This matters for the world of sustainability, as the data centre industry must cut emissions to reach net zero. It will be necessary to reduce energy footprint across energy efficiency, cooling, the supply chain, and improvements of the grid.

Cloud computing plays a vital role in the digital and green transformation of society – enabling people to benefit from digital tools and businesses to work more efficiently and grow. In the past decade alone, the number of internet users has doubled – and global internet traffic has increased 25-fold, according to the International Energy Agency.

Data centres consumed an estimated 240-340 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity globally in 2022, accounting for around 1-1.3% of final electricity demand. That excludes electricity consumed by cryptocurrency mining, which was estimated to be around 110TWh, or 0.4% of annual demand. Data transmission networks similarly consumed 260-360 TWh in 2022, or around 1-1.5% of global demand.

Danfoss, Google, Microsoft and Schneider Electric. together with the Danish Data Center Industry. have therefore launched a pan-European initiative called Net Zero Innovation Hub For Data Centers, located in Fredericia, Denmark. The goal is to speed up common solutions for the green transition of data centres and will be open to other partners across Europe.

Google’s JP Clausen, VP of Engineering and Data Center Innovation said: “The rapid pace of digitization, enabled by the data centre industry, has many benefits to people and businesses – from rapid access to information smf increased connectivity. That development, however, also requires that the data industry as a whole sets the bar for sustainability as high as possible – and builds a bridge to the rest of society. Denmark is a green corridor to Europe and the rest of the world. That is why I am both happy and proud that we have succeeded in bringing the Innovation Hub to Fredericia.”

How will the Hub work?

The consortium will function as a meeting place where key players can enter into collaborations and develop new innovative solutions that can be quickly implemented for the benefit of the green transition.

It will also serve as an opportunity to share best practices and guidance from leading researchers. Initially, the focus is on developing solutions that lower or equalise the data centres’ carbon emissions and contribute to the stabilization of the electricity grid.

Mic Seremet, product owner, Schneider Electric Kolding. said: “Our grid is under pressure as we’re shifting from a few centralized fossil-fueled power plants to a decentralized energy landscape with a large number of renewable sources. This means we must rethink our energy landscape.”

“We are looking very much forward to contributing to this transformation as part of the Hub, with concrete solutions, such as a technology platform that turns data centres into active decarbonization players, provides flexibility to deploy innovative energy resource technologies while accelerating data centre construction to help facilitate this transformation. The NZIH aligns perfectly with our commitment to being an Impact Company, joining our forces to drive the sustainability agenda.”

Building tools for Scopes 1, 2 and 3

The Hub will target projects in Scope 1, 2, and 3, which are the different kinds of greenhouse gas emissions a company or organization produces. More specifically, for cutting emissions (Scope 1) the Hub will look at projects for diesel generation alternatives and substitute fuels, and heat reuse.

As for indirect emissions (Scope 2), the Hub will aim to utilise better carbon-free energy sources such as wind and solar for power generation. For embodied emissions (Scope 3), the Hub will partner with suppliers and academia to research how to decarbonise raw materials like concrete, steel, and aluminium, allowing for data centres to be built more sustainably in the future.

The Danish Data Center Industry will act as a secretariat for the initiative, and the chief executive of the association, Henrik Hansen, outlined the importance of the cross-sectoral nature of the Hub.

Hansen said: “This initiative reflects the level of commitment and responsibility the data centre industry is willing to take to solve the challenges ahead. The roadmap to zero-carbon data centres requires solutions beyond the industry’s capabilities to solve independently. The open-sourced approach with stakeholders, both within and outside of the industry, will significantly accelerate the industry towards net zero, aligning with EU’s ambitions for data centres by 2030”.

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