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Dutch authorities temporarily halt datacentre construction

Two local authorities in the Netherlands have put the brakes on datacentre construction to give them time to put policies in place to gain more control over builds

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: CW Europe: CW Europe: Dutch authorities call temporary halt to datacentre construction

The Dutch municipalities of Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer have called an immediate stop to the construction of datacentres in the region, while a new policy is established.

According to the aldermen involved, datacentres take up a lot of space and, because of their high energy consumption, place a large burden on the electricity grid.

The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA) is now the largest in Europe in terms of the number and size of datacentres. Around Amsterdam, there are at least 33 datacentres within a radius of 20km.

The municipalities of Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer recognise that datacentres have now become indispensable facilities for almost all residents, companies and institutions, but denounce the space occupied by the buildings and the pressure they place on the energy network.

“At the moment, municipalities have hardly any instruments at their disposal to control where the datacentres are located, or what requirements they have to meet,” said Marieke van Doorninck, alderman for sustainability and spatial development of Amsterdam, and Mariëtte Sedee, aldermen for spatial development, environment and agricultural affairs at the municipality of Haarlemmermeer.

To gain more control over the establishment of datacentres, both municipalities took a preparatory decision on 12 July, with which the establishment of datacentres will be temporarily halted in anticipation of new regional policy.

Read more about datacentres in the Netherlands

The Dutch Data Center Association (DDA) reacted in astonishment to this announcement.

“The Amsterdam region has played a key role in the development of the internet and has grown to become the world’s most important internet node – the largest in Europe. Our excellent datacentre infrastructure is a magnet for [international] tech companies and creates a lot of jobs. Together with the cloud sector, it accounts for 20% of foreign direct investment in the Netherlands,” it said.

The trade association expressed surprise at the fact that a rigorous decision is being taken at this moment, and so suddenly, by announcing a temporary construction halt. “Our sector is strongly committed to sustainability and hardly takes up any space compared to other sectors,” it said in a statement.

“What’s more, the datacentre industry runs entirely on electricity, unlike many other industries, and more than 80% of the datacentres now run on green electricity.

“What is particularly surprising is that it is precisely these authorities that do not want to enter into dialogue and that they do not want to go into more depth about what is actually happening,” added the DDA.

With its digitisation strategy, the Dutch government is focusing on new technological developments such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing, and the current halt in construction could undermine this.

“How can we opt for 5G, for example, without the growth of datacentres?” said DDA spokesman Eline Stuivenwold.

The economic importance is certainly seen by the aldermen, but they are of the opinion that new policy is needed. The aim is for datacentres to take up as little space as possible and to fit the space and architecture properly into their surroundings.

The municipalities invite the datacentre sector to think along with them about the elaboration of the location policy, which should be ready by the end of this year.

The DDA accepted this invitation with both hands: “This restrictive policy is not necessary at all; the sector is benevolent and is open to the joint search for solutions.”


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