Norway updates sustainability strategy for data centre industry

11 August 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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The Norwegian government has updated its strategy for all data centres across the country, to include new measures on sustainable growth and job creation.

Titled Norwegian data centres – sustainable, digital power centres the government said its new strategy is part of a "commitment to digitalisation and the data-driven economy".

Outlining six points of action the government has committed to: strengthen promotion of the country, for example through Invest in Norway; publish English language business guides for foreign investors; implement requirements for operators to "investigate" use of surplus heat; create a heat map to support measure three; work with a public committee to assess licensing of grid connections; and facilitate cooperation between the industry and educational institutions.  

Linda Hofstad Helleland, minister of regional development and digitalisation, said: "Data centres are important building blocks of our digital infrastructure. Without the data centre industry, important areas of society within the health, energy and transport sectors would stop functioning. During the pandemic, the need for computing power has been enormous. Norway has an important role to play in further developing this industry."

Figures cited by the government state that approximately 2,000 jobs are provided by the data centre industry with projections this will grow to 11,000 in 2025.

On investments, in 2019 and 2020, NOK2.7 billion was invested and 18 new facilities established across the country. Despite the pandemic "several new locations" have been established in the last year. As Capacity and Data Economy have reported, these include announcements from Bulk Data Centers, Green Mountain and DigiPlex.   

“Norway makes an ideal location for green and efficient data centres, thanks to a cold climate, 98% electricity supply from renewable sources, the most competitive electricity prices within Europe as well as proactive support from the Norwegian government for the data centre segment,” said Carl von Hessen of German firm AQ Compute, which is building a 5,000 square meter facility in Ringerike municipality.

“In the context of the ever-increasing digitisation of our economy, we are convinced that Norway will become a crucial data centre hub in Northern Europe. We at AQ Compute are delighted to be part of this development, together with an already well-established data centre ecosystem consisting of national and international market stakeholders,” von Hessen continued.

Although still an oil exporting nation, Norway's grid is mostly dependent on hydropower, while also drawing on wind, bioenergy and gas – with some renewables now exported, too. In fact, in 2020 Norway had the highest share of electricity produced from renewable sources in Europe, and the lowest emissions from the power sector.

It means that a huge part – although not all – of the heavy lift on sustainably has already been addressed without industry having to take the initiative. However, heat and water use continue to pose a challenge.

In an example of how heat use is being tackled, earlier this year colocation company Green Mountain partnered with Norwegian Lobster Farm to reuse waste heat from data centres in the world’s first land-based lobster farm.

"We must use Norwegian power resources to develop new green industries in rural areas and attract international investment. Norway have very good prerequisites for increasing our market share within a large international industry," Helleland added.

Petter Tømmeraas, chairman of the board of the Norwegian Data Centre Industry said: "The cooperation between the data centre industry and the Norwegian government is good, and will be developed further. We see great potential for further growth and want to work together to realise the Government's goal of a sustainable Norwegian data centre industry. We invite Norwegian and foreign players throughout the data centre value chain to work with us."