China’s data centres to consume as much power as Australia by 2023

The sector can still cut carbon emissions equivalent to roughly 10 million round-trip transatlantic flights in five years

An IT engineer mans a data center. hxdbzxy/Shutterstock

In five years, buildings storing data in China will have consumed 267 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, an increase of 66 percent, according to joint research by Greenpeace and the North China Electric Power University.

This figure is equivalent to more than Australia’s total 2018 electricity generation, estimated at around 261,405 gigawatt-hours (GWh).

Last year, data centres in China spewed 99 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Environmentalists are concerned over the sustainability of the industry, given that 73 percent of data centres in the country currently run on coal.

More: Asia-Pacific data centres multiplying on robust demand

Data centres refer to networks of computer servers that host various media, emails, online transactions, and more.

By increasing data centres’ renewable energy intake by seven percent over the next five years, China is poised to prevent carbon emissions by 16 million tonnes, equivalent to the carbon footprint of roughly 10 million round-trip transatlantic flights.

“While China’s data center industry has made significant improvements in terms of energy efficiency, the industry’s massive carbon footprint is proof that much more action is needed to increase reliance on clean energy sources. There is a clear path toward renewable energy-powered data centers in China and an opportunity for innovative companies to lead the way,” said Greenpeace East Asia climate and energy campaigner Ye Ruiqi in a statement.

Left to its current level of renewable energy intake of 23 percent, the Chinese data centre sector stands to emit 163 million tonnes of CO2 by 2023.