Data centres account for 4% of Swiss electricity usage

High-energy: inside a Swisscom data centre in Lausanne. © Keystone/ Valentin Flauraud

Data centres are expanding rapidly in Switzerland, with such facilities already accounting for 4% of national energy – more than the farming sector.

This content was published on January 8, 2023

The SonntagsZeitung reports that Switzerland is now home to 86 data centres; only the Netherlands has a higher rate per capita in Europe.

The paper cites a 2021 study by the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts estimating that the energy usage of Swiss data centres will double in the next five years, mirroring trends worldwide.

“Politicians generally underestimate this development,” Professor Adrian Altenburger of the Lucerne University told the newspaper. “The power needs of these centres are going to massively increase in the coming years.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) meanwhile estimated that in 2021 data centres gobbled up 1% of global electricity. In Ireland, home to various big tech firms, such centres account for 14% of national usage, a figure which could increase to 27% by 2029.

Climate impact

With many countries unable to supply clean energy to power the centres, they can also play a role in environmental damage, the SonntagsZeitung writes. The IEA reckons they already account for as much CO2 emissions as the entire aviation industry.

In Switzerland, where much electricity comes from hydro, the climate footprint of the data centres can be kept somewhat better in check, the paper writes. Nevertheless, Altenburger wants authorities to adapt the building requirements for such centres in order to ensure a maximum in energy efficiency.

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