Singapore Introduces Sustainability Standard for Data Centres Operating in Tropical Climates

Singapore has launched one of the world’s first standards for optimising energy efficiency for data centres (DCs) in tropical climate countries.

The standard comes after a working group comprising domain and technical experts from both industry and academia, as well as government agencies worked on establishing a set of guidelines to enable the operation of DCs at higher temperature settings while optimising energy efficiency.

DCs are important enablers of the digital economy. However, DCs are also intensive users of resources like land, water, and energy. In a typical data centre, cooling systems account for up to 40% of total energy consumption with many operators choosing to operate their equipment at temperatures of 22 C and below. The cooling of DCs in a warmer tropical climate environment presents additional challenges as more energy is used to operate the cooling systems.

As demand for DCs increases, energy efficiency will be critical for ensuring the sustainable growth of the industry. Globally, there is a consensus amongst DC operators on the need to operate their DCs sustainably.

There is also increased awareness that it is possible to operate DCs at higher temperatures while achieving optimal results. However, there is a lack of established industry guidelines on how to safely raise DCs’ operating temperatures in a tropical climate, and at higher humidity levels. Singapore’s new standard was developed against this background and following consultation with the industry.

The new standard announced by Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) aims to help DCs develop a roadmap to support the gradual increase in the DC operating temperatures to 26 C and above.

This could lead to DCs potentially benefiting from a 2% to 5% cooling energy savings, with every 1°C increase in the DC operating temperature.

Green Mark Certification

IMDA’s new standard forms part of the Digital Connectivity Blueprint which was launched on 5 June 2023, within the Blueprint, sustainability will be a paramount design factor in Singapore’s digital infrastructure, so it can grow its digital economy in line with other long-term climate commitments.

The standard for tropical DCs complements other sustainability-related industry standards and best practices that are key in the city state’s push for sustainability in Singapore’s ICT ecosystem. In the longer term, the Singapore government will also chart a roadmap towards net-zero DCs that are powered by renewable energy, considering the necessary resource requirements such as land, power generating sources and green pathways.

To encourage greater adoption of the standards by the DCs operating in Singapore, IMDA is working with the Building & Construction Authority (BCA) to update the Green Mark scheme for DCs, which sets the energy efficiency and sustainability benchmarks for the DC industry, with this new standard for Tropical DCs.3

Pilot Trial

To bring Singapore forward as the regional hub for digital sustainability, IMDA is also building international private-public partnerships to drive the development of digital sustainability for a greener digital future.

IMDA is joining forces with key collaborators such as IBM and Microsoft, and Singapore is the first country to join the Green Software Foundation and European Green Digital Coalition as a supporting partner, to exchange best practices and promote the implementation of green software.

This will include efforts to equip the software community with knowledge of green software practices to design, develop and deploy sustainable digital applications, advance technologies to develop low-carbon digital applications and encourage the development of innovative carbon-aware solutions.

IMDA has worked with several DC operators in Singapore to trial this new standard to reduce energy use. For example, Digital Realty, has referenced this standard and successfully increased their DC operating temperatures by 2 C at two of their 4.5 MW data halls, which translates to a reduction of approximately 2-3% total energy usage in these data halls over the trial period to-date. The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) has also begun trialling higher temperatures in a Government DC, as part of their sustainability initiative.