Associations’ Perspectives for a Sustainable Data Centre Industry: eco, bitkom and GDA Publish Joint Position Paper

Today, eco, bitkom and the German Datacenter Association (GDA) published a joint position paper for a sustainable data centre industry by 2030.

In the wake of an impending energy crisis, the three associations call for data centres to be recognised as system-relevant IT infrastructures, regardless of their size, and to be prioritised accordingly in the event of supply shortages.

Define waste heat as a sustainable energy source and roll out renewable energies

The CO2-free waste heat from data centres must also be fed into the local and district heating network to a greater extent than before. As stated in the paper, since the necessary municipal heating network infrastructure has not been developed, operators have so far found few customers.

“If politicians promptly create the right framework conditions here, the utilisation of waste heat from data centres can be one of the top solutions for saving energy costs and CO2 in the coming years,” says Dr. Béla Waldhauser, Spokesperson for the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany, which was founded under the umbrella of the eco Association. “This potential must not be allowed to slip away unused.”

In their position paper, eco, bitkom and GDA therefore call for CO2-free waste heat to be defined as an innovative green energy source in the course of the German “Combined Heat and Power Act” and to be fed into the network as a matter of priority. For a consistent and successful implementation of the energy transition, the roll-out and availability of electricity from renewable energies in Germany must also be accelerated.

Comprehensive digitalisation, standardisation and acceleration of approval processes

In order to roll out essential data centre capacities in Germany in line with demand, the three associations also believe that bureaucratic processes need to be significantly streamlined. For example, the German “Investment Acceleration Act” should be extended to include data centres. In particular, municipal planning and approval procedures must be digitalised, accelerated and standardised.

“For the planning permission of a data centre alone, we expect six, nine, but sometimes even twelve months in Germany,” says Waldhauser. “That is clearly too long a period if we want to drive digitalisation forward and use its leverage to tackle the climate and energy crisis at the same time.”

Data centres have steadily improved their energy efficiency

In the cross-association position paper, eco, bitkom and GDA also address the current status of the data centre industry: With an estimated turnover of around 11.5 billion Euro in 2025 in the colocation and housing sector, and with the current number of around 130,000 secure jobs, data centres form the foundation and cornerstone of digitalisation, the paper states.

In addition, the industry supports the German federal government’s goal of climate-neutral operation of new data centres from 2027. Existing data centres have also continuously improved their energy efficiency in recent years: Compared to the strong global rise in computing power (increased by a factor of 10) and the volume of transmitted data (increased by a factor of 20), the increase in energy demand (only by a factor of 1.55) is disproportionately low.

“The data centre industry is thus making a significant contribution to achieving German sustainability goals,” says Waldhauser. “In a close exchange, politics and business must get to work here together in creating new synergies.”

Download position paper