German government defends energy efficiency bill amid criticisms

The German government staunchly supported its ‘Energy Efficiency Bill’ at the German Datacenter Conference in Frankfurt. The bill has now passed.

The Bill, or “Energieeffizienzgesetz,” seeks to lower emissions by implementing energy efficiency standards across all industrial sectors. Data center operators have voiced their concerns, citing what they perceive as impractical requirements, such as stringent PUE scores and rapid adoption of waste heat reuse.

“No industry can ignore the goals of the digital strategy and the agreements of coalition [government] partners cannot be questioned, but we have to find a balance of what is reasonable,” said Benjamin Brake, head of the government’s Digital and Data Policy department at the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV).

The original bill applied to all data centers over 100kW, and required new facilities built from 2025 to reuse 30 percent of their heat. This has been relaxed to data centers over 200kW being required to reuse 20 percent by 2028, he said.

The GDA still objects, saying that there are not enough district heating systems, in the right places, with enough demand for heat. Brake conceded that: “The use of waste heat as the sole criteria for choosing a location is problematic, especially when there are no requirements and obligation for waste heat users.”

Brake, previously the head of IBM’s Berlin office, argued that the requirements would ensure data centers were ready to offer their heat, and allowed a delay for the build-out of modern district heating systems, which can use the lower-temperature heat data centers create.

The measure was also, in part, an enactment of the European Energy Efficiency Directive, said Brake. The EED was presented on stage by Robert Nuij of the European Commission.

Some data center operators expressed optimism about the potential of heat reuse. Adam Tamburini, Chief Hyperscale Officer EMEA for Stack Infrastructure, currently working on a substantial data center project at the former Coca-Cola plant in Frankfurt, viewed it as an opportunity. Stack is already implementing waste heat reuse at its Oslo facility, but Tamburini acknowledged the challenges, particularly concerning location.

Meanwhile, the stipulated PUE requirement of 1.2 for new data centers opening on or after July 2026 raised concerns among GDA members. They argued that achieving this target would be exceedingly difficult for colocation providers, given the uncertainty of space occupancy and tenant optimization.

During the conference, Brake emphasized the importance of striking a balance between environmental measures and the industry’s need to remain competitive on a global scale.

Some attendees speculated that Germany could develop two robust data center hubs in Frankfurt and Berlin, positioning itself as a contender to challenge the UK’s leading position in the European data center market.

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