UPDATED: The German Bundestag is expected to pass an amended Energy Efficiency Act soon. Despite discussions, the German Data Center Association still has concerns that this will affect data center operations in the country.
The eventual law requires data centers to meet targets for PUE (power usage effectiveness) and sets a quota for the reuse of waste heat from facilities. The law affecting data centers now includes some important exemptions and changes, introduced since a November 2022 draft, which the German Data Center Association (GDA) described as a "data center prevention act." However, the Act will still hinder data centers, the GDA has warned.
The Act was due to be voted on in the German Paliament (Bundestag) today Friday July 7, but the meeting was not quorate. The EnEfG resolution has been postponed until after the summer break, but all the amendments are expected to remain.
When the new Act is finally passed, "Germany could become increasingly less attractive as a location for the industry," said Anna Klaft, chairwoman of the GDA.
Cutting energy use
The Energy Efficiency Act aims to achieve a 26.5 percent cut in Germany's energy consumption by 2030, compared with 2008 levels. This is in response to the European Energy Efficiency Directive which calls for a cut of a third to the bloc's energy use by 2030, compared with 2007 levels. The European Union wants this to be achieved by efficiency measures and requires individual countries to respond. Germany's Energy Efficiency Act is the first major response.
The final law could not be passed in a debate scheduled for 3 pm, because less than half the members were present. As today was the last day of business for the Bundestag before its summer recess, the Energy Efficiency Act will now be debated in September. No further changes are expected, beyond the amendments already filed.
Thexs existing amendments ease the Act's explicit requirements for climate-neutral data centers. The GDA hopes these will be passed and included in the Act, but there is some small uncertainty now until after the debate in September, a GDA spokesperson told DCD.
With all amendments accepted, the Act will still include a blanket requirement for waste heat reuse, which the GDA says will "create uncertainty," potentially restricting necessary data center developments. Requirements to meet targets for PUE efficiency and renewable energy would be problematic for colocation providers, said the Association.
In 2022, the first draft demanded all new data centers ensure that 30 percent of their waste heat be used by other organizations from 2024, and 40 percent from 2027. Since heat reuse has financial demands and requires an available district heating network, this was impossible to meet, the GDA argued. In November, Klaft warned: "Inflexible percentage values for the obligatory use of waste heat or a flat-rate PUE specification harbor the risk of bringing a data center prevention law."
By May 2023, a new draft reduced the heat reuse demands, starting at 10 percent heat reuse from 2026, and increasing to 20 percent in 2028. The GDA said these still needed changing, as demand for waste heat is variable, and data centers often cannot locate close to heating networks.
After negotiation with the data center representatives, the Act still includes a blanket obligation to reuse waste heat, with percentage quotas that have remained unchanged but can be circumvented by exemptions.
The Act is expected to drop a requirement to locate all data centers within five km of a heating network, and data centers will be able to satisfy the requirement by making all new data centers "ready" to offer waste heat by including a heat transfer station on the site. They will then have to offer their waste heat and give the heating network six months to respond.
"A positive aspect is that the mandatory location of new data centers within a five-kilometer radius of heating networks is to be canceled without replacement," says Klaft. “The general obligation to release waste heat creates uncertainty in planning. Large investments are urgently needed to expand the digital infrastructure in line with the gigabit strategy.”
The Act is expected to tighten PUE requirements, so facilities that open in July 2026 should have a PUE of 1.2. This is welcomed by the GDA, but Klaft says it may come up against practical problems for facilities already in the planning process: “Basically, this ambitious goal corresponds to the demands of our member companies. However, such a low value must be taken into account in the planning right from the start - the data centers that will start operating in 2026 have already been planned, approved, or are under construction".
Low PUE values could also be a problem for colocation providers because low PUE requires full utilization of the IT systems. Colocation facilities may have a low PUE if they are not full when they are open, and also may fall foul of the rule because of actions by their clients, which they cannot control.
Finally, the Act still requires facilities to use 50 percent renewable energy by 2024, and 100 percent by 2027. An amendment is expected to clarify that this demand can be met by using certificates brought from Nordic suppliers; instead of relying on German green power.
The GDA once again says it would have preferred "incentive systems" rather than regulations based on strict requirements.
“The expansion of the digital infrastructure requires high-performance data centers," said Klaft. "They are the engine and foundation of digitization and the basic requirement for the country's digital sovereignty," she added.