Unexpected data center stop in Amsterdam Stuns Dutch Data Center Industry
Effective immediately, the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA) has announced a stop to the establishment of new data centers in this region that includes Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer.
According to an official government statement today, data centers in the Amsterdam area take up a lot of territory space while they place a high burden on the electricity grid. It would be a temporary halt, but the government already dropped some hard-line demands about gaining government control over data center deployments and demanding free supply of residual heat for the heating of houses.
“The arrival of data centers is in a way a consequence of our own consumption and lifestyle. We want to be online all day long on our phones and laptops,” said Marieke van Doorninck, alderman for Amsterdam Sustainability and Spatial Development. “To a certain extent, we will have to accept the associated infrastructure, but space in Amsterdam is scarce. As municipalities, we therefore want more control over the establishment of new data centers and we ask them to contribute to the sustainable tasks of the city as well. We are going to make demands in the area of making residual heat available free of charge for the heating of homes and the use of green electricity.”
The number and size of data centers in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA) has increased considerably in recent years. The AMA is now one of the regions with the most data center dense areas in the world.
The announcement is stunning the Dutch data center industry. In an official reaction to the announcement, the Dutch Data Center Association, representing the Dutch data center industry stated the following,
“We are surprised that a rigorous and sudden decision like this is being taken at the moment. It is a sector that is strongly committed to sustainability while it takes up very little area space in comparison with other industries.”
The Dutch Data Center association represents many data center companies which have facilities located in the Netherlands – including Equinix, Iron Mountain, maincubes, Interxion, e-shelter, ITB2 Datacenters, The Datacenter Group, BIT, Switch Datacenters, and more.
Data Center Architecture and Space
“The territory space in our municipality is of great value,” said Haarlemmermeer alderman Mariëtte Sedee (Spatial Development, Environment and Agricultural Affairs). “The pressure on the area space is huge with the housing assignment that we have and the space that we want to keep for activity and greenery. It is necessary to take care of the location and to formulate a policy first, so that we can keep a better grip on the establishment of data centers.”
At the moment it would hardly be possible for the government bodies to gain control over the location of data centers, because they would almost always fit in with the zoning plans while electricity suppliers Tennet and Liander have an obligation to supply electricity anyway. According to the official Amsterdam government statement, given the economic importance of the data centers as well as the enormous investments and the growth ambition of the sector in Amsterdam and the region, new policy is needed. The aim would be for data centers to take up as little space as possible and to fit in well with their surroundings (architecturally).
The Amsterdam area government went on, stating that, “Data centers have a lot of residual heat which is often not used yet, while it can be used to heat homes and thus contribute to the sustainability of the Amsterdam heat supply. This is one of the reasons why the municipalities of Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer do not want to completely stop the establishment of data centers. Ongoing projects that are in line with the new policy will be permitted for the time being. Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer invite the data center sector to contribute to the elaboration of the location policy. The new policy should be ready by the end of 2019.”
Data Center Residual Heat
“This rigorous discontinuation of the policy with regard to the establishment of data centers has serious national consequences for the ambition of the Dutch government to become a digital frontrunner,” stated the Dutch Data Center Association. “This sudden measure ignores the actions that this sector itself has been taking and the dialogue that it has been conducting for years already. Moreover, it does not solve the challenges for what it is really about: an infrastructural problem of energy shortage due to insufficient energy grid capacity and heat networks.”
“The data center industry is also fully electrified, unlike many other industries, and more than 80% of the data centers now run on green power,” the Dutch Data Center Association went on in its statement. “In 2017, the data center sector offered its sole residual product, data center residual heat, free of charge to the Dutch government to support their energy transition ambitions. As a data center sector, we are seeking dialogue with governments and the community, while we organize, among other things, an annual conference to accelerate the use of this residual heat from the data centers. These actions have led to the classification of the data center residual heat as ‘renewable energy’ in 2018, so that it can play an important role in the BENG standard for energy consumption in the new building project that the Netherlands has set itself.”
“To us it seems extremely strange that it is precisely these governments that do not want to enter into this dialogue and that they are no longer interested in what is actually happening,” stated the Dutch Data Center Association. “Especially with a sector that is taking the lead in constructively thinking along and aiming for solutions. There has been a direct dialogue with regional and national governments for years. This year, in consultation with the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the team around the Spatial Economic Development Strategy (REOS) Implementation Program, a National Data Center strategy was published to ensure that the planning, power and energy transition are coordinated as effectively as possible. Such a restrictive policy is therefore not necessary; the sector is benevolent and open to the joint search for solutions.”
“We regret this sudden and, in our view, rigorous decision and naturally accept the aldermen’s invitation to discuss proposed actions with all stakeholders before further implementation takes place,” concluded the Dutch Data Center Association.