Data centres proliferate in China, becoming major energy user and source of emissions

Smoke seen from a cooling tower of a China Energy ultra-low emission coal-fired power plant. Nearly three-quarters of China's data centres today are fueled by coal, and they emitted 99 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018.
Smoke seen from a cooling tower of a China Energy ultra-low emission coal-fired power plant. Nearly three-quarters of China's data centres today are fueled by coal, and they emitted 99 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

China's data centre industry is one of the bright spots in Beijing's push for the mainland to become a high-tech nation. But the sector has also become a major source of energy use and carbon emissions, a new study has found.

In a race to meet ever-growing demand for Internet services, the sector is on track to consume 267 terawatt-hours (TWh) of energy by 2023 or two-thirds more than it does today, researchers from environmental group Greenpeace and the North China Electric Power University found.

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