The need for more efficient data centres was brought home on Thursday when a representative of Ivanhoé Cambridge told an industry forum that the Canadian pension fund manager would only consider green data centres when making an investment.
“I think for us when we look at our portfolio globally, it is a very low carbon portfolio and effectively to be able to get to our target, every new investment for us, including data centres, must lower the carbon intensity further,” Ivanhoé Cambridge’s senior director for investments and asset management in Asia Pacific Josephine Yip said in a sustainability-dedicated panel as part of Mingtiandi’s APAC Data Centre Forum 2022.
With data centres now consuming around 1 percent of the world’s power, Yip added that, “The broad conclusion that we’ve come to is that data centres must either be net zero, or they must have a pathway to net zero.”
To fully capture the environmental impact of data centres, the industry should look at not just the efficiency of power use, but also gauge carbon footprint and water consumption, said Alton Wong, an executive director with Cushman & Wakefield who is head of advisory services and co-head of sustainability services for the firm’s Greater China business.
While Ivanhoé Cambridge has yet to make its first investment in data centres, Yip said the real estate arm of Canada’s second largest pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) sees opportunities arising where developers, operators and tenants share similar sustainability standards and commitments to achieving net zero emissions.
Speaking at the same forum – which is sponsored by Yardi – SC Zeus Data Centers chief executive officer Joe Gooi said the Singapore-based unit of SC Capital Partners also makes sustainability a priority for its facilities in APAC, incorporating green strategies from the design stage through to operations.
“We have a three pronged strategy: one is to ensure that we secure renewable energy, we design our data center so they function efficiently, and we have a tech powered data centre operation team,” Gooi said.
SC Capital Partners’ digital infrastructure arm mostly secures renewable energy from local and global suppliers, but he said his team is also looking into blue power generation that relies mainly on water resources.
At the design and development stages, Gooi highlighted SC Zeus’ in-house technology and proprietary cooling methodology which can bring down energy consumption by up to 30 percent, with the company’s facilities able to achieve PUE, or power usage effectiveness, ratios as low as 1.2 or even 1.1 in temperate regions.
While many operators focus on PUE, Cushman & Wakefield’s Wong encouraged consideration of water and carbon impact under a trinity framework outlined by the property agency in a report released earlier this month.
“Energy usage is known to encompass other factors, including the embodied carbon use in the construction materials, energy sources and water conservation associated with the cooling system,” he told the panel. “This underscores the importance of adopting new metrics such as water usage efficiency, that is WUE, and carbon usage effectiveness (CUE).”
He explained WUE as a metric gauging water used by a facility for cooling and other operational needs, while CUE is the ratio of carbon dioxide emissions caused by the data centre’s power use and other operations.
Setting stringent green standards from the very beginning ensures that resource-intensive data centres are future-proofed according to Tan Bee Lay, chief sustainability officer with fractional investment platform SDAX, who pointed to the advantages to investors from pursuing projects in jurisdictions with strong standards and governance.
“We like countries with more stringent regulatory requirements actually, I see that as a plus point,” Tan said during the panel discussion. “They shape the institutional dimension of connectivity, because that means the organisation will go on to develop agreements, rules and standards, and that becomes a key prerequisite and hence a layer of assurance for investment in data centres.”
Ivanhoé Cambridge’s Yip emphasised the importance of having green facilities since stopping data centre investments is not an option for the fast-growing sector.
“If we were to stop building data centres today and we went back to on-premise data centres, we would end up in a worse position than we are now because on premise data centres are actually more carbon intensive than having the aggregated large scale data centres,” she said.
Up Next: Singapore
The panel on data centre sustainability was the seventh and final session in Mingtiandi’s APAC Data Centre Forum 2022.
MTD TV will return next month with its first in-person event to be held at the Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay in Singapore on 18 October.
The forum will have eight discussions throughout the day, including an exclusive interview with Jeffrey Perlman of Warburg Pincus, an opening panel dedicated to the city-state’s macro outlook, as well as separate conversations focused on office investments, the industrial sector and the performance of Singapore-listed REITs.