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Singapore to restart datacentre builds with sustainability focus

The Singapore government is running a pilot exercise to drive the sustainable development of new datacentres following a moratorium on datacentre builds

The Singapore government has announced a pilot exercise to drive the sustainable development of new datacentres in the city-state.

Through the exercise, the government hopes to bring in state-of-the-art datacentre technologies, encourage best practices in datacentre energy efficiency and decarbonisation, and bolster Singapore’s global connectivity and position as a regional business hub.

Datacentre players in the market that are seeking new capacity can apply for the exercise, which will provide flexibility for innovative proposals, said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

According to local business media The Business Times, datacentre operators will be able to submit proposals for up to 60MW of capacity under the exercise. “Successful applicants in the exercise will also be awarded 30-year leases – longer than the 20-year ones previously proposed,” it reported.

The exercise follows a two-year moratorium on new datacentre construction in the city-state since 2019 amid concerns about the growing carbon footprint of datacentres.

“As the usage of digital applications and services increases, the demand for data storage and processing for businesses and consumers has also risen globally,” said IMDA. “However, datacentres are also intensive users of resources like land, water and energy, contributing to our carbon footprint.

“Going forward, Singapore will need to manage the growth of datacentre capacity in a sustainable manner consistent with our climate change commitments.”

The moratorium was lifted in January 2022 and the government has had extensive consultations with datacentre providers, customers and sustainability system providers to determine the parameters for the installation of new datacentre capacity.

Datacentre industry players welcomed the pilot exercise. Yee May Leong, Equinix’s managing director for South Asia, called it a step forward by the government to ensure that firm actions are taken to build a sustainable future and tackle climate change.

“While datacentres provide the foundation that powers Singapore’s expanding digital economy and smart nation aspirations, the industry players have the responsibility to ensure digital transformation is done in a sustainable way,” she said.

Datacentre operators and hyperscale cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services are already doubling down on their sustainability efforts, employing renewable energy and other cooling-related innovations to improve the energy efficiency of their datacentres.

A recent study conducted by economics consultancy AlphaBeta found that the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of datacentres in Singapore improved from 2.0 in 2017 to 1.9 in 2020. However, 34% of datacentres in Singapore continued to register a PUE of over 2.0.

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