China’s Internet Data Power Consumption Will Rise Until 2023: Study

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s booming internet data sector will increase its energy consumption by two-thirds by 2023, putting further pressure on the country’s plans to reduce smog and carbon emissions , according to a study published on Monday.

China, the world’s biggest energy consumer and producer of climate-warming greenhouse gases, is in the midst of a program to modernize its economy, reduce reliance on old polluting sectors like steel and cleaning up its predominantly coal-fired energy system.

Big data is set to play an increasing role in delivering cleaner electricity, especially in the creation of decentralized “smart grid” systems, but it is also becoming one of the biggest consumers of electricity in China and elsewhere. .

According to the study by the environmental group Greenpeace and the North China Electric Power University, the increase in energy consumption of Internet data centers is expected to lead to an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power plants in the world. country.

The sector was responsible for around 99 million tonnes of CO2 last year, and more needs to be done to encourage companies to source energy from renewable sources to prevent this figure from rising further. arrow, according to the study.

“Electricity market reforms and the rapid growth of wind and solar power have created unprecedented opportunities for Chinese internet giants to source clean energy,” said activist Ye Ruiqi. for East Asia Climate and Energy at Greenpeace.

Data center electricity consumption reached 161 terawatt hours (TWh) last year, or 2.35% of China’s total, and is expected to reach 267 TWh in the next five years, more than total consumption. of Australia from all sources in 2018, according to the study. forecast.

The study indicates that China is home to 2.7 million server racks, with the industry growing at a rate of around 30% per year. The sector’s CO2 emissions could reach 163 million tonnes by the end of 2023, but this could be reduced by 16 million tonnes if its renewable input is increased from 23% to 30%.

“In twenty years, it is possible that data centers and big data will represent a third of energy consumption, three times more than electric vehicles,” said Emmanuel Lagarrigue, director of innovation at Schneider Electric, which works with major internet and technology companies in the United States and China.

“It’s going to use a lot of electricity, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less sustainable – a lot of players are thinking about how to innovate,” he said.

Reporting by David Stanway; edited by Christian Schmollinger

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