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Danish data centres unlikely to make use of surplus power: report

Planned data centres in Denmark owned by Google, Facebook and Apple appear in conflict with government policy to improve sustainability.

Danish data centres unlikely to make use of surplus power: report
A file photo showing Apple's data centre at Foulum near Viborg under construction in 2017. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

A review by specialist media Ingeniøren has looked into prospective energy use at major new data centres in Denmark.

Facebook's centre near Odense will provide surplus power to local heating infrastructure Fjernvarme Fyn, according to the report, with up to 100,000 megawatt hours, enough to heat 6,900 homes expected to be gained from excess from the data centre. 

Other data centres will be located too far away from district heating networks, placing a prohibitive cost on authorities building cables and new installations to use power from the centres, Ingeniøren writes.

Facebook is building a second data centre near Esbjerg, reported to be the largest in Denmark.

The need for stable and cheap electricity was a major factor in the companies’ choice of locations close to major electricity supply lines, according to documentation provided to Ingeniøren by Invest in Denmark and Apple.

Professor and energy researcher Brian Vad Mathiesen of Aalborg University stressed the need to make use of surplus power and said failing to do so in the case of the data centres was a serious mistake.

“There is unfortunately a tendency for politicians and officials to wrap things up in green packaging without checking that they are actually green and without following up,” Mathiesen said to Ingeniøren.

Christian Ibsen, director of green thinktank Concito, told the magazine that it was vital to ensure minimum environmental impact by data centres.

“Data centres have a very high energy consumption, so steps should be taken to ensure new wind and solar power production. That could be made a requirement,” Ibsen said.

“Furthermore, any surplus power should be used as far as possible in local energy infrastructures, and consideration should be made as where to locate (data centres),” he added.

No rules currently exist regarding use of surplus energy from data centres. Minister for the Environment Lars Christian Lilleholt told Ingeniøren in a written statement that the issue was “on his mind”.

Lilleholt said that he would be disappointed if surplus power from only one of six data centres in Denmark was used, but added it was too early to draw conclusions and thereby place demands on tech giants over use of energy surplus.

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ENVIRONMENT

‘We still have a chance’: Danish minister’s relief after Glasgow climate deal

Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen has expressed relief that a meaningful climate change deal was struck in Glasgow last night, after a last minute move by India and China nearly knocked it off course.

'We still have a chance': Danish minister's relief after Glasgow climate deal
Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen speaks at the announcement of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

“For the first time ever, coal and fossil fuel subsidies have been mentioned. I’m very, very happy about that,” he told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper. “But I am also very disappointed that the stronger formulations were removed at the last minute.” 

Late on Saturday, the world’s countries agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact, after negotiations dragged on while governments haggled over phasing out coal. 

Denmark is one of the countries leading the phase out of fossil fuels, formally launching the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) with ten other countries and states at the Glasgow summit on Tuesday, announcing an end to oil exploration last December, and committing to phase out coal by 2030 back in 2017. 

Jørgensen conceded that the deal struck on Saturday was nowhere near far-reaching enough to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, which scientists have estimated is critical to limiting the impacts of climate change, but he said the decision to hold another summit in Egypt next year meant that this goal could still be reached. 

“The big, good news is that we could have closed the door today. If we had followed the rules, we would only have had to update the climate plans in 2025, and the updates would only apply from 2030,” he said, adding that this would be too late. “Now we can fight on as early as next year. This is very rare under the auspices of the UN.” 

Limiting temperature rises to 1.5C was still possible, he said. 

“We have a chance. The framework is in place to make the right decisions. There was a risk that that framework would not be there.” 

Jørgensen said that he had come close to tears when India launched a last-minute bid to water down the language when it came to coal, putting the entire deal at risk. 

“It was all really about to fall to the ground,” he said. “The assessment was that either the Indians got that concession or there was no agreement.” 

Sebastian Mernild, a climate researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said he was disappointed by the lack of binding targets and global deadlines in the plan, but said it was nonetheless “a step in the right direction”, particularly the requirement that signatories to the Paris Agreement must tighten their 2030 emissions reduction targets by the end of 2022.

“It’s good that this thing with fossil fuels has got in,” he added. “It’s a pity that you don’t have to phase them out, but only reduce.”

He said the test of whether the Glasgow meeting is a success or failure would not come until the various aspects of the plan are approved and implemented by members states.

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