Digitalization and sustainability go hand in hand

With the growing number of data centers, energy consumption and CO2 emissions will also increase in the coming years. Data centers use energy 24 hours a day, so it is very important for data centers to handle their energy consumption sustainably and use sustainable cooling systems and reuse residual heat.

Digitalization in Rotterdam 
The ‘Economische Verkenning‘ (EVR) provides insight in important data regarding the economy of Rotterdam. The municipality closely works together with partners, researchers and scientists in order to retrieve these data. According to the EVR (2019), Rotterdam is increasingly moving from a port economy to a service economy. The IT sector is growing by about 8% (2016-2018).

Research by Metropolitan Region Rotterdam The Hague (2019) has shown that the Rotterdam The Hague region can positively develop in the field of data exchange infrastructure. Most data centers in the Netherlands are located in the Amsterdam region. This makes this region vulnerable with regards to the degree of energy consumption, use of space and the risk of power outages. Many companies set aside their data storage independently in data centers in different regions in order to have a “back-up.”

The study of the Metropolitan Region concludes it would be very positive if the South Holland region developed into a “twin hub”. According to Barbara Kathmann, alderman on behalf of the PvdA in Rotterdam, there is therefore a need for more data centers in the region: 

Digitalization is an important precondition for sustainability within our economy. Without a good digital infrastructure, there will be no development of smart and sustainable solutions. In the coming years, I encourage and support SMEs, new entrepreneurship and digitization by launching three action programs in 2019: Startup Rotterdam, New Entrepreneurship and Next Delta.

How digitalization can still contribute to a sustainable economy
The more data centers, the higher the energy consumption. Rotterdam, on the other hand, is also characterized by its focus on sustainability, this seems contradictory. However, building more data centers offers opportunities for stimulating a circular economy. Within a circular economy we use residues that are completely reused in the system. In the EVR (2019) Barbara Kathmann says: 

To make us even more resilient, I stimulate the new economy that is both digital and circular and I will invest in SMEs and digitalization in the coming years.

The municipality of Rotterdam is working on various projects to stimulate sustainability. The focus here is on the reduction of CO2, cleaner air, cleaner energy and energy saving. The objective is that Rotterdam must generate more sustainable energy than the city uses by 2030

The municipality sits around the table with residents and companies to discuss how Rotterdam should deal with the future of the city in the context of sustainability. The municipality of Rotterdam is discussing with companies to see how they can become more sustainable and how energy can be saved in primary business operations. Smartdc also regularly talks about these topics this with the municipality. 

Reuse of residual heat
Heat is a very useful residual product of the Rotterdam industry for creating new energy. We are now wasting a lot of residual heat. This is a shame, because the energy from this residual heat can be reused. This is part of the circular economy. The goal of the municipality of Rotterdam is to increasingly supply the Rotterdam area with residual heat. In this way we prevent extra combustion of gas in the city, which in turn contributes to improving air quality and lowering CO2 emissions. 

Smartdc investigates the possibilities for reusing residual heat
Smartdc also investigates the possibilities in the area of reusing residual heat. A large part of the power consumption of data centers is converted into heat. Up to now, this heat has hardly been reused. According to Marc Gauw of the Dutch Data Center Association (DDA), there is a lot of potential in re-using residual heat:

Data center residual heat has the potential to heat more than one million households. This is a wonderful opportunity that we as industry and society must use to accelerate the energy transition. 

Smartdc is currently talking with the Van Nelle factory to investigate whether the residual heat of the data center can be used here.