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Coal Is Fuelling China’s Data Center Boom


Electricity consumption in China’s data center sector is projected to increase by a whopping 66 percent over the next half-decade – currently powered 73% by coal.

China’s data center sector is heating up. “The rapidly growing market is largely driven by data-intensive industries such as cloud computing, an industry that the government has marked for rapid development as it ramps up the country’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities” reports TechNode, a news source dedicated solely to Chinese technology sector reporting. “China is aiming to close the AI technology gap with the US by 2030.”

As the world’s second-largest economy races to catch up with the United States in key cutting-edge technological industries such as Artificial Intelligence, its data center industry (the sector that uses networks of computer servers to host China’s massive swaths of data such as emails, photos, videos, and more) must also keep up with the ever-increasing demand for data storage. A fast-growing sector in an economy the size of China’s will surely send ripples through other sectors, and in the case of data centers this translates to a massive surge in electricity consumption for the Chinese data center industry over the next five years.

According to a new study conducted by environmental activism and advocacy group Greenpeace in conjunction with the North China Electric Power University, electricity consumption in this sector is projected to increase by a whopping 66 percent over the next half-decade. “By 2023, the sector is projected to consume 267 TWh of electricity, more than Australia’s total 2018 electricity consumption,” writes Greenpeace in a press release published alongside the study. The abstract goes on to point out that “China’s data center industry is currently powered 73% by coal.”

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