The East Africa Data Centre (EADC) has today launched a new dedicated $5m Kenya Power substation, reporting that Kenya’s moves to renewable energy have emerged as a competitive advantage for energy-intensive businesses.
Data centres house critical data for clients, including cloud services and data back-up, on servers that are heavy energy users. Consolidating data into a single premise is far more energy efficient than multiple individual on-site data servers, but data centres are still heavy energy users.
Kenya last year consumed 7,800,000 MwH of electricity, of which 4,000,000 MwH was consumed by large and medium commercial and industrial users. EADC uses just 1/10,000th of that industrial electricity consumption, at 410 MwH. But, globally, data centres are now consuming some 3 per cent of the world’s total electricity supply, with their power consumption growing at about 4 per cent a year – driven by some of the world’s largest data centre users, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, as well as Microsoft and IBM.
This has caused mounting concern for policy makers, with Google’s electricity consumption, alone, almost doubling each year, and now running at around 3.2 Gw. In the US, analysts now estimate that the 91bn KwH and $9bn of electricity that data centres were consuming in 2013, will have become 139bn KwH and $13.7bn of electricity by 2020, requiring an extra 17 power plants.
“As the growth and power hungry nature of data centres has moved into the public eye, there has been an increasing focus on data centres sourcing energy from renewable energy sources, so that they are not contributing to global warming,” said EADC CEO Dan Kwach. “This has seen the world’s data centres required, increasingly, to demonstrate their green credentials to win international clients.”
The challenge for data centres, globally, however, is that few options exist to generate enough renewable energy for each centre individually.
However, with two-thirds of Kenya’s electricity now generated from renewable sources, the country has moved into a leading position in clean power, compared with other African nations and global energy mixes.
In the UK, renewable energy now accounts for around 25 per cent of the electricity supply. In South Africa, it accounts for less than 10 per cent, while Egypt is working to meet a target of 20 per cent of its electricity sourced from renewable energy by 2020, and Ghana to reach a target of 10 per cent.
This has seen EADC’s shift to more Kenya Power electricity push it up the ‘green’ ladder as a green data centre, powered by a higher proportion of renewable energy than other data centres in Africa, and making it more appealing for environmentally conscious multinationals.
Before the launch of the dedicated substation, EADC was using Kenya Power electricity for 85 per cent of the time, and diesel-fuelled back-up generators for the other 15 per cent of the time, during national grid power outages. But the new substation means East Africa’s largest and most sophisticated data centre, based in Nairobi, is now on mains electricity 97 per cent of the time, substantially cutting its diesel consumption, and raising its green credentials.
“For EADC, the move to secure 97 per cent availability of Kenya Power’s unusually green electricity has now positioned the data centre as an exceptionally sustainable option, offering it a competitive advantage over data centres elsewhere in Africa,” said Mr Kwach.
The significance of this new advantage was marked today in a launch ceremony for the new Kenya Power substation at EADC, attended by Kiambu Governor Hon William Kabogo, the CEO of Kenya Power, Dr Ben Chumo, the CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya, Mr Ben Roberts, and EADC CEO Mr Dan Kwach.