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Is the APAC data centre market about to be thwarted by its own success?

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The APAC (Asia-Pacific) data centre region is set to be the biggest global DC market by 2021, but doubts are surfacing as to whether local power grid supply will be able to cope with this growing demand.

The speed and concentration of data centre investments in the APAC region is a huge task for supporting infrastructure, according to a new report by global temporary power specialists Aggreko.

Another recent report from Digital Realty and Eco-Business suggests that the APAC region is set to be the biggest market for data centres by 2021, with expected market size to reach US$28bn by 2024 for colocation facilities. 

With hundreds of mega-watts of IT load coming online, there are concerns on whether local power grid supply will be able to keep up with demand.

Energy supply across APAC data centre hotspots are facing a critical juncture, with grid companies and power networks moving at slower speeds than the technology infrastructure investments.

And while focus may turn towards upgrading existing networks to withstand the demands of this growing industry, the cost and time required is simply unattainable.

Ravindra Bapat, head of data centres, Asia, at Aggreko commented, “It is clear that there are a number of significant opportunities for the region to capitalise on in this lucrative industry, but with opportunity comes challenges.

“Grid network reliability, power availability and last mile connectivity is known to be inconsistent in many regions, particularly for all up-and-coming markets such as Tokyo, Jakarta and Mumbai.

“Adding to the challenge is the location of such data centres, with many increasingly positioned inside the major metropolitan locations and, as such posing difficulties for local utilities to upgrade the infrastructure due to space constraints and huge cost.

“While there are a number of valuable investment prospects in the region, operators and developers must understand the existing infrastructure gaps and have a bridging solution to cope with probable power supply challenges while delivering projects against tight timelines.”

Another challenge, according to the report, is the pledge to utilising renewable energy among the new data centre facilities.

The APAC region is synonymous with its high energy use and accounts for more than half of the global energy consumption.

With more data centres coming online, energy consumption is set to grow and at a faster pace. While the sector looks to drive up their energy use, globally, weak grid supplies could hinder hopes of progress of a sustainable energy future in the APAC region, according to Aggreko.

Ravindra adds, “Data centre developers and operators are facing pressure to make promises of utilising more renewable energy.

“The adoption of solar and wind power is mixed across the region and, given the significant differences of grid reliability across the different countries and data centre hotspots, incorporating a reliable system is going to be difficult.”

The solution, according to the report, lies with a flexible and temporary on-site power generation system, as Ravindra explains, “Flexible on-site power can mitigate the delays of upgrading electricity infrastructure, providing the necessary power to become operational as soon as possible without the investment on permanent Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) infrastructure.

“It has proven its worth across a number of major data centre projects in Europe and North America, allowing projects to be delivered despite significant grid connection delays.”

Other solutions outlined in the report include combined heat and power (CHP) technology, modular and mobile solar PV and microgrids.

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