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“There is a lot of potential here,” said Franz Untersteller, the state’s environment minister. “We have to improve how we use the opportunities created by digitization for sustainability and climate protection in order to further reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.” Untersteller pointed out that resources could be saved using digital technologies, for example through more efficient production processes, smart grids or energy storage systems that match renewable generation with demand.
At the same time, Untersteller emphasized that the challenges of the digital transformation should not be ignored. Energy consumption, especially in data centers, is increasing worldwide. “We have to look increasingly for ways to design and operate data centers efficiently,” he said. “For example, we have to use their waste heat in our local heating networks.”
A typical data center with a 200-kilowatt connection consumes around 1,500 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity per year in its servers. Much of this energy ends up as waste heat. Untersteller noted that simulations show that with a heat pump around 2300 MWh of usable heat could be generated annually at a temperature of 80 °C (176 °F) from a typical data center. This could be fed into heating networks. “That would be enough to supply around 150 households with heat,” he emphasized.
Robert Compton of Germany Trade & Invest supports international companies in the energy efficiency field that are expanding to Germany. “The waste heat needs to be brought up to 70 or 80 °C with a heat pump, the heat network needs to be nearby, able to accept the energy and all the partners have to be willing. This might sound a bit daunting, but there is a huge potential for savings that is only going to grow as digitization progresses and more data centers are set up. It seems Baden-Württemberg is keen to set a good example in this respect and we’d be happy to connect any companies looking to set up a presence in Germany and get involved. The funding available for innovative heat networks in Germany is fantastic.”
Ministry for the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector Baden-Württemberg: Press release (in German)