Electricity consumption from China’s digital sector on track to increase 289% by 2035: Greenpeace
Greenpeace East Asia May 28, 2021
BEIJING, 28 May 2021 – Electricity consumption from data centers and 5G base stations in China is on track to increase by an estimated 289% between 2020 and 2035, according to a new report from Greenpeace East Asia. In 2020, 61% of electricity that powered China’s digital infrastructure came from coal.
“Explosive growth in digital infrastructure does not need to mean growth in emissions. Technology companies have the potential to catalyze real emissions reductions via investment in distributed renewables projects and direct purchase of wind and solar energy, among other strategies. But some of the industry’s biggest players, including Alibaba and GDS, have yet to issue 100% renewable energy or carbon neutrality commitments,” said Greenpeace East Asia climate and energy campaigner Ye Ruiqi.
Carbon emissions from China’s internet industry are projected to continue to rise through 2035, long after China’s targeted 2030 national emissions peak, creating complications for the country’s national carbon neutrality commitments. By 2035, emissions from digital infrastructure in China are forecast to reach 310 million tonnes, more than three times Guangzhou’s total carbon emissions in 2019.  By contrast, sectors such as steel, non-ferrous metal, and cement, are expected to peak emissions around 2025.
5G is one of the fastest growing sources of internet sector emissions in China. Power consumption from 5G in China is on track to skyrocket 488% by 2035, reaching 297 billion kWh by 2035, roughly equivalent to Sichuan’s total electricity consumption in 2020.