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Hong Kong datacenters lack renewable energy options

Teresa Leung, IDNS | June 20, 2012
Datacenters in Hong Kong can never become greener -- because Hong Kong's government is lukewarm to the use of renewable energy."

Datacenters in Hong Kong can never become greener -- because Hong Kong's government is lukewarm to the use of renewable energy."

"Despite an 18% growth in local datacenter floor space from 2010 to 2011, the government has no metrics for assessing the environmental impact of energy used to power datacenters," said Yau Yeung, Greenpeace's Clean Our Cloud campaigner in Hong Kong. "The problem will get worse because datacenters and cloud providers have no choice but to use 'dirty' energy produced by coal, gas, and nuclear power in Hong Kong."

The current local grid-power mix is 54% coal, 23% nuclear energy, and 23% natural gas, according to a recent Greenpeace report: "How Clean is your Cloud" -- the report adds that electricity generation accounts for 67% of local greenhouse gas emissions.

Systematic problems

The local government proposes a token increase in the use of renewable energy by 2020: from currently less than 1% to 1-2%, said Yeung. "That means tech firms like Google -- which receives high marks for being more transparent about its energy use and committing to use renewable energy in our latest report -- won't be able to do the same at its Hong Kong datacenter, which is slated to go live in 2013," said Yeung.

Despite Google's green commitment, it declined to comment on Hong Kong's lack of renewable energy sources for its datacenter and its criteria in choosing datacenter locations.

HKEx (Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing) -- now building a Tier 4 datacenter in Tseung Kwan O -- also refused to comment on energy sources. The facility -- to be completed by Q3 this year -- will support up to 1,200 racks with a total power load of 8MWm, said Jonathan Leung, head of Hosting Services, HKEx. "We are committed to sustainability," said Leung. "Our facility has attained the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at the gold level."

However, energy sources and usage is only one among many areas the LEED certification measures. A green building rating-system developed by the US Green Building Council, LEED formally recognizes the adoption of environmentally friendly practices in a construction project. There are four levels of certification --certified, silver, gold, and platinum.

Joe Locandro, director, Group Information Technology, CLP, said Hong Kong is limited by its geographical location and the lack of space in renewable energy development. "Wind farms and solar farms require lots of space," said Locandro. "In addition, renewable energy should be [considered] part of the overall datacenter-power mix as wind, water, and sunshine are never as stable as we desire." CLP is piloting an off-shore wind farm 10km off Sai Kung, he said.

Greenpeace urged the local IT sector to take the use of renewable energy seriously. As the peak load of Hong Kong has become static in recent years, the expansion of datacenters might be the only reason for increased capacity, the activist organization said. "The local IT sector can have a strong positive influence by setting a renewable energy-friendly siting policy and buying wind power," Yeung noted.


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