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Singapore’s Approach to Sustainable Data Centre Growth

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In response to queries about the advancements in data centre efficiency, liquid cooling, and tropical operations achieved by Singaporean companies and research institutes from 2019 to 2022, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information provided a comprehensive overview of the nation’s initiatives and innovations in the sector.

Data centres (DC) are the backbone of Singapore’s digital economy, facilitating the nation’s digital-first Smart Nation initiatives. However, they are notorious for their high consumption of electricity and water. To address these concerns, Singapore imposed a three-year moratorium on DC growth to explore sustainable management practices aligned with international climate commitments.

During the moratorium, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Singapore Economic Development Board conducted extensive consultations with industry stakeholders and end-users. These discussions aimed to identify sustainable growth strategies for the DC sector, highlighting the need for energy-efficient and best-in-class data centres.

One of the significant steps taken was the 2022 pilot Data Centre Call for Application (DC-CFA), inviting proposals for sustainable DCs. Four operators were awarded capacity under this initiative, committing to build new data centres incorporating innovations such as liquid cooling and energy-efficient IT equipment.

Moreover, Singapore is developing new standards to promote greener operations in both existing and new data centres. A notable achievement is the creation of the world’s first Tropical Data Centre standard, allowing DCs in Singapore and similar climates to operate at higher temperatures, thus reducing the energy needed for cooling. This standard complements global best practices already adopted by many local DCs.

To maintain Singapore’s leadership in DC sustainability, IMDA recently unveiled the Green Data Centre Roadmap. This roadmap outlines the government’s plans to collaborate with the industry to pioneer hardware and software solutions for greater energy efficiency and accelerate the use of green energy. The roadmap is a continuation of the Digital Connectivity Blueprint launched in June 2023, aiming to provide at least 300 megawatts (MW) of additional capacity through green energy deployments.

Singapore’s innovations in DC efficiency and sustainability place it at the forefront globally. The development of the Tropical Data Centre standard and the emphasis on liquid cooling and energy-efficient IT equipment reflect state-of-the-art advancements. These innovations are on par with, if not ahead of, global standards, highlighting Singapore’s potential to set benchmarks for sustainable DC operations worldwide.

The commercial implementation of these innovations is already underway. The four operators awarded capacity under the DC-CFA are in the process of building new, sustainable data centres. Furthermore, IMDA is facilitating partnerships to push boundaries in energy efficiency and green energy adoption. The goal is for all DCs to achieve a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.3 or lower and adopt energy-efficient IT infrastructure.

To support the ecosystem in achieving these goals, Singapore is co-developing enhanced standards and certifications with industry partners and providing incentives for DCs to uplift their energy efficiency. Additionally, efforts are being made to facilitate industry partnerships for low-carbon energy sources and drive innovation through active R&D collaborations with academia and industry.

As a regional hub for data centres, Singapore’s strategic initiatives and innovations in DC efficiency and sustainability are crucial for addressing the global challenge of resource-intensive DC operations. The nation’s pioneering efforts not only ensure sustainable growth for its own DC sector but also offer scalable solutions that can be adopted internationally. Through continued collaboration and innovation, Singapore is well-positioned to lead the way in sustainable data centre development.


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