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16 Apr 2024

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Data Centers Driving More and More Demand Worldwide

Relevant to IDCA's recent article about green hydrogen, the world can expect a continued, intense demand for new electricity from the data center sector worldwide.

For example, a report issued this year by Cushman & Wakefield projects dramatic increases in the amount of electricity data centers will require by 2028. Each of the three broad regions this report examines: the Americas, EMEA, and APAC will require at least twice as much power within this looming five-year period:

* Americas will rise from the current 16,800MW to 41,600MW

* EMEA will rise from 6,200MW to 12,700MW

* APAC will rise from 10,600MW to 23,800MW

Where Will We Find It?
Where in the world will the world find the additional 44,600MW this report says is needed? That amount represents about 1.4 percentage points of entire global electricity consumption at the moment and an investment of at least US$100 billion, perhaps considerably more. Making it happen will also require thousands of new site locations, battles over regulatory issues, while facing a chaotic mess of federal, provincial, and local political hurdles.

In this age of sustainability focus, global development on this scale also leads to questions of just what type of power will be put to the task? The world currently gets about 30% of its electricity from sustainable sources, not including nuclear energy, according to IDCA Research.

The Big Two Economies
The US is a notorious laggard at 20%. (The graphic at the top of this article, courtesy of the US Department of Energy, shows which types of energy constitute the 20%. Note that hydrogen is not considered important enough to be listed.) The US does try to redeem itself with an additional 18% of it energy coming from nuclear.

China's traditional sustainable grid is close to the world average at about 28%, with an additional 5% coming from nuclear. China and the US are the world's Big Two economies and the two largest electricity producers, with 30% and 15% of the global total, respectively.

China is still enthusiastically adding coal-fired power, with an estimated 50,000 new megawatts going online in 2022, an amount that exceeds the daunting new demand projected by the data center industry between now and 2028.

A Global Issue
In the face of Big Two dominance, as we sit today, the nations of the world will continue to develop new wind and solar energy, use hydropower where they can, perhaps increase the use of biomass, and start a long debate about the practical possibility of deploying nuclear energy more widely. They will, it seems, also be talking more and more about green hydrogen.

Image from Government of Seoul, South Korea.

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