Data Centres as Energy Pioneers: Using Synergies for a Carbon-Neutral Future

The Rhine-Main Infrastructure Network highlights challenges and solutions in the energy supply and provides corresponding solutions.

Advancing digitalisation and the energy transition: The demand for data centres is constantly increasing. They are essential for overcoming the current energy challenges and crucial for the success of the energy transition. With the optimal use of data centres, we could heat all residential and office space in Frankfurt on a carbon-neutral basis by 2030 through consistent waste heat utilisation. The prerequisites are investments in modern heating networks, cooling systems and a reliable supply of electricity from renewable sources.

Synergies of digitalisation: using waste heat as a resource and integrating renewable energies

Improving digitalisation and the increasing demand for computing power will lead to constructing and expanding more data centres. “In order to reduce our ecological footprint, it is becoming increasingly important to feed more renewable energy into the grid and to use the resulting waste heat as efficiently as possible,” states Dr Béla Waldhauser, Spokesperson for the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany under the umbrella of eco – Association of the Internet Industry.

Joint solutions for a sustainable energy supply

Syna GmbH, the network operator for electricity and gas supply in the region, is planning a power increase of over 1,500 MVA for data centres alone by 2030. This corresponds to about twice the number of households in the city of Frankfurt. “The progressive electrification of all areas of society requires a significant expansion of the region’s power grids,” emphasises Dr Andreas Berg, Technical Managing Director of Syna GmbH. An illustrative example is the Rhine-Main Link, a project initiated by Amprion, the transmission grid operator. Its purpose is to establish a direct connection between the North Sea coast and Hesse, enabling the transmission of wind power in the future.

“The synergy between RE-powered data centres and the efficient utilisation of waste heat leads to enormous potential for the reduction of carbon emissions. With heat pumps, we are able to elevate waste heat to a temperature level that is suitable for utilisation by the most advanced generation of district heating networks.,” explains Axel Menze, Managing Director of Süwag Grüne Energien AG & Co. KG. “By expanding the infrastructure and using innovative technologies, the necessary conditions could be created to achieve carbon-neutral heating for all homes and offices in Frankfurt by 2030. This can be accomplished through the efficient utilisation of waste heat throughout the city,” adds Dr. Béla Waldhauser. “For economic operation, we need new data centres that are designed to be “waste heat ready” and a large number of connected households in expansion areas. Close cooperation between municipalities, grid operators, data centre operators and other stakeholders is crucial to achieve this goal. We also need a realistic catalogue of prerequisites for waste heat projects with a site-specific feasibility analysis,” Waldhauser continues. It is also crucial for politicians and the general public to recognise that the successful transition of electricity and heat hinges on the expansion of our infrastructure,” notes Dr Andreas Berg.

The Rhine-Main Infrastructure Network promotes dialogue around the expansion of infrastructure in the Rhine-Main Region in order to make energy supply more efficient and environmentally friendly.

The role of the data centres in Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt am Main, one of the world’s major Internet hubs, is home to over 60 data centres with a contractually guaranteed output of 700 to 800 MW. Extensive investments in the energy infrastructure are necessary to cover the increasing energy demand and to meet the requirements of climate protection. Currently, the Bundestag, the German parliament, is discussing a draft law that aims, in particular, to increase the energy efficiency of data centres. Recent developments and discussions highlight the vital role of data centres in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring a sustainable energy supply.

About the Rhine-Main Infrastructure Network

The Rhine-Main Infrastructure Network promotes dialogue on the preservation and expansion of key infrastructures in the region, currently focusing in particular on energy infrastructure. The network regularly organises events and visits “special sites of energy” where challenges and solutions to our energy supply are revealed. The kick-off event took place in November 2022 on issues relating to the energy supply of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry at Industriepark Höchst. At the second event in April 2023 at the Telehouse Deutschland, the focus was on the energy supply of the digital infrastructure. The network comprises network operators, energy producers and consumers who collaborate on this matter, continuously expanding its scope.

Further information on the Rhine-Main Infrastructure Network can be found on their (German-language) website.

About the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany

The Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany is an association of leading companies in the industry. Founded in 2018 under the umbrella of eco – Association of the Internet Industry, the initiative aims to draw attention to the importance of digital infrastructures in Germany as a business location through dialogue with politicians and the public.

Further information on the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany.

Data Centres as Energy Pioneers: Using Synergies for a Carbon-Neutral Future