Pioneering sustainable data centres in Cyberjaya
- Emphasises the necessity of a holistic, balanced development plan for Cyberjaya
- Address emission, and resource concerns as data centers integrate AI into working cultures
During Cyberview’s InnoEx, an inaugural innovation expo event held in Cyberjaya last September, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s speech highlighted the city’s potential to become the preferred investment location for technology companies.
Notably, Cyberjaya has experienced notable growth in the data centre space, with the announcement of the latest data centre foreign investment from EdgeConneX, a global industry leader, with 200MW-capacity on a 30-acre future campus.
This development reflects the increasing demand for data centres in a rapidly growing digital economy, emphasising Cyberjaya’s role in providing essential digital infrastructure. Recent trends suggest continued growth in this sector in the immediate to mid-term. However, as we commit to supporting the sector’s growth, we remain cognisant of the need to strike a holistic and harmonious balance in Cyberjaya’s overall development plan. This is crucial to ensure we stay on track to achieve the goal of creating a smart and low-carbon Cyberjaya by 2030.
Data centres and resource demands
With an ever-increasing demand for data processing driven by digitalisation and automation, data centres serve as a critical backbone of our digital age. The Asia Pacific region, witnessing significant digitisation fueled by robust e-commerce and widespread mobile penetration, has experienced a surge in demand for data centres. Malaysia has successfully capitalised on this demand and has emerged as a preferred location for such investments.
However, recent developments raise concerns. For instance, a researcher from the University of California, Riverside, highlighted that OpenAI’s generative artificial intelligence (AI), ChatGPT, requires one small bottle of mineral water to cool down for every five to 50 prompts it answers. Additionally, Google reported a 20% increase in water consumption across its offices and data centres due to a shift towards expanding its AI efforts.
As data centres adapt to accommodate AI development and integration into mainstream working culture, we must address concerns about increasing emissions and the consumption of resources. While technological advancements are inevitable, and supporting their growth is necessary, concurrently fostering and embracing innovation in sustainability is of equal importance.
Innovating towards sustainability
Part of the government’s Malaysia Madani concept focuses on innovation as a key thrust towards advancing Malaysia’s economy. However, it is crucial to ensure environmental sustainability at the core of this pursuit of economic prosperity and technological advancement. The conservation of the environment and a sustainable approach to development must become second nature as we move forward.
Towards this end, Cyberview recently co-organised a workshop with the Malaysian Gas Association (MGA) in support with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), on harnessing potential renewable gases and cogeneration (CoGen) technologies to benefit data centres.
The workshop’s timing was not only opportune but also in line with the government’s strong commitment to transitioning towards a low-carbon and sustainable future, as highlighted by Asdirhyme Abdul Rasib, under-secretary of the Sustainable Energy Division for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change during his opening remarks.
He emphasised the hindrances in adopting energy-efficient appliances like CoGen due to a lack of awareness about their benefits and availability, resulting in limited demand for these products. Recognising this, he stressed the need for more extensive efforts to drive awareness of renewable energy, urging more education and outreach efforts within the data centre industry, including partnerships with technology providers and knowledge exchange platforms.
During his welcoming remarks on behalf of Abdul Aziz Othman, president of MGA, Ahmad Hashimi Abdul Manap emphasised the advantages of adopting cogeneration to enhance energy efficiency and lower business expenses. This is especially crucial for data centers facing a surge in demand. Expressing strong agreement, he believes that cogeneration can foster a sustainable business model, enabling data centers to handle increased capacity proficiently and contribute to reducing carbon emissions.
For Cyberview, the goal is to explore these potentials through a collaborative framework involving Cyberjaya’s tech ecosystem players, government stakeholders, regulators, academic institutions, and others in the city.
Looking ahead, we are confident that with effective follow-throughs, Cyberjaya can seize a remarkable opportunity for companies in the city to transition towards low-carbon practices, aligning with the country’s vision of an innovation-led economy.
Therefore, the emphasis on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments by all serves as a driving force to align industries with the goals outlined by the government, as articulated in the recently announced frameworks and roadmaps, including the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR).
The NETR sets the goal of renewable energy making up 70% of the local energy mix by 2050. Part of this transition plan is the Malaysia Renewable Energy Roadmap (MyRER), which targets to generate 13 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025 and 18 gigawatts by 2035 from solar, bioenergy, hydro or new solutions and resources, which could include green hydrogen.
Furthermore, the Dewan Rakyat recently passed the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act bill, encouraging organisations to manage and reduce their resources better. It requires mandatory energy assessments for larger-scale commercial and industrial companies that consume electricity and natural gas.
Cyberview is in full support of these efforts. Especially since we have been implementing sustainability and low-carbon credentials throughout projects undertaken in the city in recent years. In fact, with a clear direction for the transition from the government, Cyberview will further enhance its efforts to contribute to meeting these national goals.
A recently established ESG framework and five-year roadmap for the company are in place to ensure that our internal efforts lead to influencing, contributing, and impacting Cyberjaya’s development into a smart and low-carbon city.
On our part, through a master plan that focuses on smart mobility, we have been able to embed sustainability components, particularly, by encouraging the use of electric vehicles (EVs) in the city. Our partnerships with Yinson Greentech, Roda Emas Sdn Bhd in establishing Go To-U EV charging stations and in welcoming Tesla Motors to Cyberjaya, are all aimed at reducing emissions.
Emissions are further reduced by the centralised cooling facilities using chilled water that we have established through Pendinginan Megajana Sdn Bhd. This system is currently being used in more than 46 buildings, reducing 7,000 tonnes of emissions from the atmosphere annually.
Since 2016, approximately US$1.07 million (RM5 million) has been invested by Cyberview and our partners to develop and install photovoltaic cells in parking areas and rooftops to harness solar energy into our energy mix.
We are also exploring additional opportunities with potential partners to harness solar and renewable energy for data centers in Cyberjaya, including the feasibility of a floating solar power plant on the surface of bodies of water via the enhanced Corporate Green Power Programme and Third Party Access .
These efforts are aligned with the NETR, and we are looking to develop further and push innovation towards increasing the efficient use of energy and other resources to achieve Cyberjaya’s low-carbon city objective by 2030.
Concurrently, we look forward to collaborating with those looking for solutions for better resource efficiency and sustainability as we uphold the government’s goals of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
Kamarul Ariffin Abdul Samad is the CEO of Cyberview Sdn Bhd