Four Chinese departments, including the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and National Energy Administration (NEA), have recently published a new guideline, pushing forward the intensive, large-scale and green development of data centers in the country, as reported by Sina on December 28. According to the plan, China pursues to develop an integrated infrastructure system across the nation with proportionally distributed and green data centers by 2025, and basically establish its public cloud services system. The plan also requires large and hyperscale data centers in China to reduce their power usage effectiveness (PUE) values to less than 1.3 in the next five years, and encourages them to use more clean and renewable sources.
By the end of 2019, China had approximately 74,000 data centers, accounting for around 23% of the global total, with 12.7% being large and hyperscale data centers. The server rack volume reached 2.27m in total as of 2019, and the number is estimated to grow to 3.29m in 2020. Chinese investments into the data center market expanded by around 15% between 2017 and 2019, nearly doubling the global average growth rate.
Meanwhile, based on a report published by Greenpeace and North China Electric Power University in 2019, data centers in the Chinese Mainland consumed 160.89bn kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in 2018, which represented around 2.35% of the regional electricity usage in the year. This added an estimated 99m tons to China’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2018 alone. Most data centers are running on an average PUE ratio of 2.2 to 3.0, with much room for energy-saving improvement. By 2023, the data center industry in China is projected to consume 267bn kWh of electricity annually, generating 163m tons of carbon emissions in total.
Since 2017, Chinese local governments have introduced stricter PUE rules, in a bid to increase data center efficiency and reduce electricity waste. Beijing has, for example, announced to prohibit the construction or expansion of data centers in its central areas in 2018, except for cloud computing data centers with a PUE of 1.4 or below. Shenzhen has scrapped the subsidies for data centers with a PUE of above 1.4 in 2019, and is offering an over 40% subsidy for data centers with a PUE of 1.25 or below. Shanghai has also required all the newly built data centers in the area to have a PUE of less than 1.3 by 2020. In addition, the country is pushing for a transition from coal to renewable energies in the data center industry, as coal so far makes up around 73% of the power generation for Chinese data centers. According to some researchers, a 7% increase in the share of renewables in the total energy use could help reduce carbon emissions by 16m tons in China by 2023.