China’s Internet data power usage to surge through 2023

China is the world’s biggest energy consumer and producer of climate-warming greenhouse gas. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 September 2019
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China’s Internet data power usage to surge through 2023

  • Soaring power consumption from Internet data centers is expected to result in higher carbon dioxide emissions from the China’s coal-fired power plants
  • The sector was responsible for around 99 million tons of CO2 last year

SHANGHAI: China’s burgeoning Internet data sector will increase its power consumption by two-thirds by 2023, putting further pressure on the country’s plans to curb smog and carbon emissions, according to a study published on Monday.
China, the world’s biggest energy consumer and producer of climate-warming greenhouse gas, is in the middle of a program aimed at upgrading its economy, easing its dependence on old polluting sectors like steel, and cleaning up its mostly coal-fired energy system.
Big data is set to play an increasing role in supplying cleaner electricity, especially in the creation of decentralized “smart grid” systems, but it is also becoming one of the biggest consumers of power in China and elsewhere.
According to the study by environmental group Greenpeace and the North China Electric Power University, soaring power consumption from Internet data centers is expected to result in higher carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the country’s coal-fired power plants.
The sector was responsible for around 99 million tons of CO2 last year, and extra efforts need to be made to encourage firms to source power from renewable sources to prevent that figure from spiralling higher, the study said.
“Power market reforms and rapid growth in wind and solar power have created unprecedented opportunities for China’s Internet giants to procure clean energy,” said Greenpeace East Asia climate and energy campaigner Ye Ruiqi.
Power consumption from data centers reached 161 terawatt-hours (TWh) last year, 2.35% of China’s total, and it is set to rise to 267 TWh in the next five years, more than Australia’s total consumption from all sources in 2018, the study forecast.
The study said China was home to 2.7 million server racks, with the sector expanding at a rate of around 30% a year. The sector’s CO2 emissions could reach 163 million tons by the end of 2023, but that could be cut by 16 million tons if its renewable intake is increased from 23% to 30%.
“Twenty years from now, it is possible that data centers and big data will account for a third of power consumption, three times as much as electric vehicles,” said Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Chief Innovation Officer of Schneider Electric, which works with big Internet and technology companies in the United States and China.
“It is going to consume a lot of electricity but that doesn’t mean it will be less sustainable — many of the players are thinking about how to innovate,” he said.


South Korea downgrades Japan trade status as dispute deepens

Updated 18 September 2019

South Korea downgrades Japan trade status as dispute deepens

  • The change comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization
  • The new measures in effect mean it might take up to 15 days for South Korean companies to gain approvals to export sensitive materials to Japan

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea on Wednesday dropped Japan from a list of countries receiving fast-track approvals in trade, a reaction to Tokyo’s decision to downgrade Seoul’s trade status amid a tense diplomatic dispute.
South Korea’ trade ministry said Japan’s removal from a 29-member “white list” of nations enjoying minimum trade restrictions went into effect as Seoul rearranged its export control system covering hundreds of sensitive materials that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.
The change comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization over a separate Japanese move to tighten export controls on key chemicals South Korean companies use to manufacture semiconductors and displays.
Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate against South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to offer reparations to South Koreans forced into labor during World War II. Tokyo’s measures struck a nerve in South Korea, where many still resent Japan’s brutal colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
According to South Korean trade ministry, the new measures in effect mean it might take up to 15 days for South Korean companies to gain approvals to export sensitive materials to Japan, compared to the five days or less it took under a simpler inspection process provided for favored trade partners.
Lee Ho-hyeon, a South Korean trade ministry official, said the change would affect about 100 local firms that export items such as telecommunications security equipment, semiconductor materials and chemical products to Japan. He said Seoul will work to minimize disruption to South Korean companies.
Japan for decades has enjoyed a huge trade surplus with South Korea, an economy that’s much more dependent on exports. Many major manufacturers heavily rely on parts and materials imported from Japan.
But the dispute is taking a toll. Exports to South Korea from Japan fell 9.4% last month, Japan’s Finance Ministry reported Wednesday.
The trade dispute between the neighbors erupted in July, when Japan imposed tighter export controls on three chemicals South Korean companies use to produce semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs, major export items for South Korea. It cited unspecified security concerns over Seoul’s export controls.
A few weeks later, Japan dropped South Korea from its own trade “white list,” triggered a full-blown diplomatic dispute that took relations between the US allies to their worst in decades.
The dispute has spilled over to security issues, with Seoul declaring it plans to terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan that symbolized the countries’ three-way security cooperation with the United States in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat and China’s growing influence.
Following an angry reaction from Washington, Seoul later said it could reconsider its decision to end the military agreement, which remains in effect until November, if Japan relists South Korea as a favored trade partner.
Seoul announced its plans to downgrade Tokyo’s trade status in August before holding a 20-day period to gather opinions on the decision, during which the Japanese government voiced opposition to the move it described as “arbitrary and retaliatory,” Lee said.
He said Seoul needs to strengthen controls on shipments to a country that’s “hard to cooperate with” and fails to uphold “basic international principles” while managing export controls on sensitive materials.
South Korea previously divided its trade partners into two groups in managing export controls on sensitive materials. Following Wednesday’s change, South Korea now has an in-between bracket where it placed only Japan, which would mostly receive the same treatment in trade as the non-favored nations in what had been the second group.