Chindata pledges to outperform China’s net zero ambitions

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China has become the second largest data centre market worldwide – behind the USA – with almost 1.6 million square metres of third-party data centre raised floor space available across the country according to ResearchAndMarkets. The Chinese third-party data centre market is forecast to grow by over one million square metres of space over the five years to the end of 2025 to over 2.5 million m2. In size, China is like a large mature market – it has over 360 facilities and almost 200 data centre providers. But China also offers faster growth than the other large data centre markets with data centre pricing forecasting an increase of 72.5 per cent over the next five-year period.

The construction of new infrastructure including 5G and data centres has been picking up speed in China, fuelled by a surge in demand for telecommuting, online entertainment, and voice and video call services.

Unlike the western markets that are primarily driven by the demand, the Chinese data centre industry, like many other sectors here, is likely to be pushed forward first by the government-designed roadmaps and large companies’ business strategies, with the main catalysts including cloud computing, 5G and Artificial Intelligence.

Based on BOC International’s figure, there are 2.27 million data centre cabinets in China currently, 1.50 million data centres are being built or planned, although it cannot cover the upcoming demand.

The traffic or data is concentrated on giants like Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu, with research showing that over 70 per cent of internet traffic is from their applications. 

Several companies have announced plans to scale up their data centres. Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba will invest $28.7 billion in the construction of data centres and other projects, while Baidu, the leading search engine in China, plans to have five million servers in place in ten years.

In July, Chinese internet giant Tencent started offering services from its data centre, which can house more than one million servers, located in Qingyuan, south China’s Guangdong province. With the rapid development of the digital economy, the trend of building large data centres in the country is becoming more obvious. Data shows that the number of ultra-large-scale and large data centres accounted for 12.7 per cent of the total data centres in China in 2019.

Due to the lack of scalability of traditional data centres, the next generation will be on demand in the digital era. The new generation of data centres should be standard, modular, intelligent, green, and safe, according to Zhang Chunming, an associate researcher at the Institute of Computing Technology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. These can drastically save on time and construction costs, six months compared to the traditional 18 months.

Matching sustainability with growth

With this growth comes the same challenges that other markets are facing when it comes to sustainability. In a speech to the UN General assembly in November, China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2060, emphasising the need for a green revolution. Since the announcement, Japan has pledged net zero by 2050.

Chindata Group, that operates in the region has recently unveiled its sustainability roadmap. The group is a leading carrier-neutral hyperscale data centre solution provider in Asia-Pacific emerging markets and a first mover in building next-generation hyperscale data centres in China, India, and Southeast Asia markets. The roadmap calls for the group to be carbon neutral for all its next generation hyperscale data centres in China with its 100 per cent renewable energy solution by 2030, 30 years sooner than China’s 2060 carbon neutral pledge.

To achieve this challenging target, Chindata has committed to invest in clean energy with an installed capacity of no less than 2 GW by 2030. The company recently signed renewable energy contracts with local governments, such as Datong and Zhangjiakou of China, totalling 1300 MW of installed capacity.

“As the digital transformation has accelerated, there is a growing demand for carrier-neutral hyperscale data infrastructure,” a company spokesperson said. “That means it requires a huge energy supply in a focusing area. If a data centre provider could find green solutions to this data infrastructure, it will help tech companies and their users across the world to realise carbon neutrality as soon as possible. Thus, as the first-of-its-kind company in China to launch the 2030 carbon neutrality roadmap, Chindata Group is willing to work together with partners to progress toward a sustainable future.”

Chindata adopts a unique site selection strategy, putting energy as a key factor. Most of its hyperscale data centres are in regions with rich wind and solar resources, making it possible to fully absorb local surplus wind and solar energy. In 2019 alone, Chindata achieved a portfolio renewable energy mix of 37 per cent.

In addition to the strategy of maximising its renewable energy use, Chindata plans minimise its energy use by taking advantage of advances in green building technology, IT equipment, and cooling systems. Last year the group’s data centres achieved average an annual PUE of 1.21, approximately 27.5 per cent lower than the global industry, and an average annual PUE of 1.67 for a data centres with capacity of 20 MW or more during the same period, according to Uptime Institute, saving an equivalent of 173,087 tons of carbon dioxide emissions reduction.

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