Growth of data centres in Frankfurt to now be controlled

13 May 2021 | Antony Savvas

Cover

The city of Frankfurt intends to bring in controls on future data centre builds, over concerns they are taking up too much space and using too much energy.

The move by Frankfurt comes after similar concerns were raised by the city of Amsterdam in 2019, which went on to implement a moratorium on new data centre building projects for a year and bringing in new controls on future projects.

Earlier this month, it was also reported that city state Singapore intended to bring in building controls on new data centres.

Frankfurt, with Amsterdam, is in the top four data centre regions of Europe, along with Paris and London, and its growth has been fuelled by the local financial services industry, the DE-CIX internet exchange and its geographic location to other countries.

According to a magistrates report commissioned by the local authorities, over 60 independent data centres were in operation or under construction in 2019 in the Frankfurt am Main area, and they “show various challenges that [the area] will have to deal with in the next few years”.

At the same time, the report acknowledges the local data centre industry invests on average a total of €350 million per year in operations.

“Even if operators such as NTT or Digital Realty develop data centre complexes in the region, Frankfurt am Main remains a focus for further developments within the industry,” says the report.

“The magistrate is aware of several projects in different planning and development stages for the next few years which are focused on previous [data centre] clusters and new focal points.

“It can be assumed that the industry will have a significantly higher demand for commercial space by 2030.”

The space required for building is primarily in commercial areas that are also used by other commercial sectors. The report says it can be “assumed” that the capital-intensive industry of colocation data centres is “causing increased demand pressure on commercial space”, which at the same time “creates price pressure” that other commercial operations with lower profit margins “cannot cope with and are displaced”.

In addition to the space consumption, the power use of the data centres in Frankfurt is also increasing. “Technology is becoming more efficient and more energy-saving, but demand is growing faster than technical progress,” says the report.

“In order to achieve the climate goals of the city of Frankfurt am Main the industry has to find ways to save energy,” it says.

The report concludes: “To respond to the associated challenges, the next step is to develop an urban development concept. The settlement and development of data centres should be spatially controlled.”