eco Alliance for Digital Infrastructures: Current draft of the German Energy Efficiency Act is technically and economically unfeasible

The Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany, founded under the umbrella of eco – Association of the Internet Industry, warns against unrealistic obligations for data centre operators under the planned German Energy Efficiency Act. As part of the recently released draft act of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, waste heat levies of up to 40 per cent are included.

Alexander Rabe, eco’s Managing Director and co-initiator of the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany, comments:

“The current draft act has not been fully thought through. What is lacking is not the willingness of data centre operators to pass on waste heat, but rather the absence of a political framework to establish a market of customers: As a first step, therefore, municipal energy supply companies, for example, would have to be obliged to purchase waste heat. There is also a need for significantly improved access to heating networks and feed-in opportunities. What is the point if data centre operators convert their data centres to waste heat recovery in a cost-intensive and perfect manner, and then there is no one to take the recovered waste heat and make it available to the market?” Having asked this question, Rabe continues to observe that, if recovered waste heat cannot be purchased due to a lack of demand, the energy used for heat recovery is wasted.

Furthermore, Germany must vigorously promote the expansion of renewable energies. The German federal government’s targets of using at least 50 per cent of unsubsidised electricity from renewable energies are very ambitious, but for this to happen, there must also be enough green electricity on the market. This is not the case in Germany today.

In Frankfurt alone – home of more than 60 data centres and the world’s largest Internet Exchange – all residential and office spaces could receive a climate-neutral heat supply by 2030 through the utilisation of waste heat. In this regard, however, a heating network infrastructure would have to be created by the municipalities, and this does not currently exist. In addition, the utilisation of waste heat from data centres would have to be made much more economically attractive.

As Rabe warns: “The Energy Efficiency Act is therefore clearly heading in the wrong direction for Germany as a digital location: Specifications that data centres must release 30 to 40 per cent of their waste heat are both technically unfeasible and hardly sensible from an economic point of view. Particularly if a short-term conversion is required during ongoing operations, or if structural measures with a great deal of bureaucratic effort have to be taken, the timeline for achieving the targets is also not realistic.”

The specified efficiency criteria could no longer be met for data centres that are currently on the pipeline or already under construction. A much longer implementation period would be needed here.

“We consider it counterproductive to impose such regulations on an industry that makes a significant contribution to achieving the sustainability goals in Germany. German unilateral action is no gain for Europe: If the German federal government’s planned Energy Efficiency Act is implemented in this form, digitalisation will no longer have a home in Germany,” adds Rabe .


eco at the Digital Summit 2019