Digital Infrastructure as a Core Engine for Sustainability

How digital technologies accelerate sustainable success for Hong Kong business and communities

Larry Tam
Digital Infrastructure as a Core Engine for Sustainability

There has never been a more pivotal timeframe than now to fight against climate change. A recent report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stark warning calling for organizations and countries to work together for a brighter future.[1] As pressure from stakeholders continues to accumulate, organizations are increasingly looking for new solutions to fast-track sustainable developments. In Asia-Pacific (APAC), organizations are also accelerating sustainability efforts, including Hong Kong.

As the main gateway between Mainland China and international countries, Hong Kong has long played a vital role as a financial and trade hub in Greater China and the APAC region. But as the pandemic spotlighted sustainability and digital gaps worldwide, the city has been laying the groundwork for the next era of digital and sustainable visions. Similar notions are also echoed in other regions of Asia-Pacific, pointing to a larger trend for sustainability across the region. While there is still some way to go, these trends offer a real opportunity for digital infrastructure to support sustainability, and further for data centers to empower organizations for success.

In our recent sustainability webinar titled ‘Data Centers of the Future – Accelerating sustainable success with digital infrastructure’, I sat down with Travis Kan, Head of Digital Solutions of CLPe Group, to discuss Hong Kong’s future as a sustainable and digital hub and how organizations can capitalize on current growth opportunities.

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The journey to becoming a digital and sustainable city 

Digitally, Hong Kong is gearing up at full speed. According to the Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 5, a market study recently announced by Equinix, Hong Kong’s interconnection bandwidth is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 46% by 2024, reaching 6,002 Tbps. In line with this, the demand for data centers is also rapidly increasing, with the market expected to reach US$4.12 billion in 2026.[1]

As Hong Kong begins to lay the groundwork for the next era in its smart city transformation, we are also witnessing crucial developments locally in sustainability, shaping Hong Kong’s future as an enterprising hub. Recent developments include the announcement of Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050. Investments to green up the city are also extensive, with HK$240 billion dedicated to driving various preventative measures that focus on the key carbon generating sources. Additionally, an investment of over HK$110 billion is set for digital innovation and technology,[2] and a further HK$200 million is allocated to fund green technologies.[3]

“Embracing sustainability speaks to tomorrow’s Hong Kong—a prosperous and progressive economy that continues to attract global businesses and investors. Ensuring that the advantages of our increasingly interconnected world come at the lowest possible impact on our environment is a collective responsibility for companies, governments, and communities. [Equinix] is glad to see there are more guidelines that are helping businesses set their sustainability agendas and embark on a zero-carbon journey.” Larry Tam, Managing Director, Equinix Hong Kong.

Achieving a more sustainable Hong Kong

During our discussion, we all believed that Hong Kong is taking steps in the right direction towards sustainability but emphasized that it’s a group effort where digital, sustainability, and people work hand-in-hand together to build the future. That said, collaboration among stakeholders and organizations should be aligned and businesses should take a more proactive role in implementing sustainable practices.

At Equinix, our role is to support organizations on their digital and sustainable journey. We were the first in the industry to commit to using 100% renewable energy globally, and our efforts have resulted in substantial positive social and environmental impacts. We are proud to have achieved 100% renewable energy usage in our Hong Kong data centers, which are also certified to meet rigorous environmental and energy standards.

We are also committed to becoming climate neutral, setting science-based targets for emission reduction across our global operations and supply chains by 2030. Our targets and goals help support our customers to green their digital supply chains as Equinix drives down its carbon emissions across its operations and value chain.

Ensuring that the advantages of our increasingly interconnected world come at the lowest possible impact on our environment is a collective responsibility for companies, governments, and communities." Larry Tam, Managing Director, Equinix Hong Kong

CLPe also echoed similar sustainability goals. Its parent company CLP Goup’s Climate Vision 2050 sets out the blueprint for its transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. As part of the vision, CLP is accelerating the phase-out of coal-based assets and cease the development of new coal-fired generation assets, to transition to a Utility of the Future. In the webinar, Travis also mentioned that digitalization is a crucial element for sustainability, and CLPe sees data centers as vital infrastructures in Hong Kong to facilitate this. CLPe also supports Hong Kong’s pivot to electrification development, such as electric vehicles charging and district cooling, to help organizations access lower-carbon alternatives.

Digital infrastructure to solve the challenges of the future

To demonstrate how technology and sustainability can work hand in hand, it’s important to highlight the challenges faced by organizations in Hong Kong. In our webinar, we identified three critical roadblocks to sustainability:

  1. Lack of resources and talent: To become sustainable, organizations believe they need a dedicated team to push for it, so it often falls back on the priorities list until it becomes urgent.
  2. Lack of set goals and milestones: Often, the lack of a clear set of objectives provides little to no understanding within the organization about the business value of sustainability.
  3. Costs: There is a large misconception that becoming sustainable is costly for an organization to sustain, a cost that is not justified in some cases. Our webinar audience also believes this to be the largest challenge on the journey to sustainability.

Most of these roadblocks can be addressed with a flexible and future-proof digital infrastructure, and organizations don’t need to overhaul their entire operations or employ new teams to address sustainability. For example, by using a virtual service like Equinix Metal™ or Network Edge, businesses can set up on-demand high-performance bare metal and connect virtual network services at the edge in minutes, saving time and resources in shipping hardware to local markets, and further mitigating the risks brought on by supply chain disruptions.

Travis from CLPe also added that digital transformation inside an organization is critical in driving sustainability. He went on to say that in Hong Kong, organizations usually face challenges raising capital to retrofit appliances or upgrade facilities, and this becomes a barrier to lower emissions and sustainability performance. Therefore, CLPe launched its cooling-as-a-service to support organizations to cover the capital for initial replacements and ongoing operation and maintenance.

“If organizations continue to operate as they did in the past, it becomes difficult to achieve sustainability. Keeping outdated practices also limit advancement—therefore, we see digitalization as a way to tackle these challenges. Using different tools to harvest data and help you make better decisions, and then applying digital technology as part of the solution. Travis Kan, Head of Digital Solutions of CLPe Group.

We also believe in creating an ecosystem where businesses can exchange ideas and work with industry players, institutions, vendors and local communities. For example, Equinix recently opened our first Co-Innovation Facility (CIF), a new capability that enables partners to work with us to trial and develop innovations. These innovations, such as identifying a path to clean hydrogen-enabled fuel cells or deploying more capable battery solutions, will help define the future of sustainable digital infrastructure and services when rolled out globally.

Data centers of the future

As emerging technologies and cloud adoption continue to accelerate at an unprecedented rate, it’s evident that higher requirements are needed for sustainability—keeping us at Equinix motivated to fast-track our sustainable efforts.

Although the future changes so quickly, Equinix will continue to offer digital infrastructure responsibly to support and advance an organization’s sustainability goals, as well as continue to drive sustainability innovations and collaborations. Watch the webinar and reach out to us to learn more about how digital infrastructure can facilitate your sustainability journey.

[1] https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/

[2] https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/hong-kong-data-center-market

[3] https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202107/14/P2021071400291.htm

[4] https://www.gtf.gov.hk/en/about_the_fund/about_the_fund.html#objectives

If organizations continue to operate as they did in the past, it becomes difficult to achieve sustainability. " Travis Kan, Head of Digital Solutions of CLPe Group
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