Singapore has launched a standard for optimizing the energy efficiency of centers (DCs) in tropical climates.

The standard, from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), suggests operating facilities at higher temperatures to reduce the energy used in cooling. It was announced by Singapore’s Senior Minister of State, Communications and Information, Dr Janil Puthucheary at ATxEnterprise, part of Asia Tech x Singapore 2023.

Singapore Gardens by the Bay.jpg
– Getty Images

The standard has already been tested by Digital Realty in its Singapore facilities.

The announcement comes after the IMDA sponsored extensive work on tropical data centers. Back in 2016, IMDA sponsored a Tropical Data Center test, followed by a plan with Huawei and Keppel to develop plans for high-rise data centers that was announced in 2017.

There was little or no public output from those studies, but in 2021, the IMDA announced a plan with Facebook for a $17 million Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) to test novel cooling techniques at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The IMDA announcement does not contain much detail, beyond the suggestion that data centers in hot climates should be operated at warmer temperatures than the currently widespread practice of 22°C or less.

"The cooling of DCs in a warmer tropical climate environment presents additional challenges as more energy is used to operate the cooling systems," said IMDA. "Globally, there is a consensus amongst DC operators on the need to operate their DCs sustainably. There is also increased awareness that it is possible to operate DCs at higher temperatures while achieving optimal results."

The IMDA said there have previously been no guidelines on how to raise operating temperatures in a warmer, more humid climate, and its new standard will help provide a roadmap to gradually reach 26°C and above. Every 1°C increase in a data center's operating temperature could save between two and five percent of data center cooling energy (ie up to two percent of total energy), it claimed.

Digital Realty has referenced this standard and successfully increased the operating temperatures of two 4.5MW data halls by 2°C, producing a two to three percent energy saving. The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) has also begun testing higher temperatures in a Government DC.

The standard could in the future be included in the Building & Construction Authority (BCA)'s Green Mark scheme for data centers, which sets energy efficiency and sustainability benchmarks for the industry.

Alongside these efforts, Singapore has joined the Green Software Foundation and European Green Digital Coalition as a supporting partner.

The standard is part of a Digital Connectivity Blueprint which was launched on June 5 2023 by Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, Josephine Teo.

Teo said: "Within the Blueprint, sustainability will be a paramount design factor in Singapore’s digital infrastructure so that we grow our digital economy in line with our long-term climate commitments. The standard for tropical DCs complements other sustainability-related industry standards and best practices that are key in our push for sustainability in Singapore’s ICT ecosystem. In the longer term, the Government will also chart a roadmap towards net-zero DCs that are powered by renewable energy, considering the necessary resource requirements such as land, power generating sources, and green pathways."  

At the ATx event, other government announcements included Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Heng Swee Keat, launching a National Quantum-Safe Network Plus (NQSN+), and publication of a discussion document on AI governance.