We must dispel myths and use plain facts in the data center debate

We must dispel myths and use plain facts in the data center debate

Discussion: The colorful metaphors really fly when John Peter Hernes and Ingeborg S. Folgero respond to my recent column about Norway’s future investment in data centres. It’s time for some simple, sober truths.

  • Björn Ronning

    Managing Director in the Norwegian data center industry

Published: Published:


This is a discussion post. The post was written by an external contributor, and quality assured by Aftenbladet’s debate department. Opinions and analyzes are the author’s own.

Sharing data centers in Norway is obviously something we like. However, the response of the pair Hernes and Folgero to my article in Aftenbladet on 3 November this year is largely a story about me and my personality rather than an elegant and realistic argument about the state of things. Colorful and creative metaphors abound, and the undersigned is described as everything from an “unwilling comedian” to one who risks “gibberishness” and “deliberately false claims.”

We do not wish to continue on this path. Let’s take an organized and calm look at some facts. Or rather, let’s start with some stubborn myths.

Right-wing summits point to the oil adventure and call for a “new Jens Evensen” capable of securing Norway’s interests. Have they forgotten Erna Solberg, who in 2018 launched the government data center strategy “Norway as a data center country”?

You will get Google, you will use Tiktok

In their eagerness to prove their points regarding what they call “vast amounts of Norwegian electricity for various data centres,” Hernes and Folgero write, among other things, that Google “requested A few“Five percent of Norwegian electricity production, while the social media platform TikTok will do so.” Uses» 1 percent. In the next sentence, there is talk of the industry’s appetite for “50 per cent of Norway’s total electricity production”, before criticizing it and claiming that the data center industry in this case needs “27 Vossen facilities”.

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Strong numbers? certainly. But here we have to keep our tongues in our mouths.

It is absolutely true that the two digital players have reported their electricity needs for their facilities 10 to 20 years in the future. However, it is not about the actual expected usage, but rather the maximum capacity. These two things are by no means the same thing, and should not be lumped together. The ability is interesting enough, but the real usage is and will be more relevant.

If Hernes and Folgero had read the paragraph below the paragraphs they cut NRK case, This should have reassured them: “But in reality, no data center or any other industry will operate at full capacity all the time, even if it can for shorter or longer periods.”

Energy-intensive industry could increase further

Are there qualified numbers and estimates regarding real energy consumption? Dare we say it? The Norwegian Directorate for Water Resources and Energy (NVE) has presented its estimates of Norway’s total energy use up to 2050, and they tell a slightly different story.

Because yes, the share of Norway’s total electricity use used by data centers in the years leading up to 2050 is expected to increase to five percent. Or let’s put it another way: in 30 years, it is expected that an industry that is already experiencing strong growth today will actually use one-twentieth of the electricity Norway has at its disposal. By the way: NVE’s estimate regarding the total energy-intensive needs of traditional industry in 2050 is 30 percent.

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Hernes and Folgero then go on to make some claims regarding the comparison between Norway and Germany that are worth commenting on.

Firstly, the undersigned’s point is addressed that the environmental benefit is achieved by locating data centers in Norway, as these facilities need to be cooled and that this is naturally less energy intensive in a colder climate. It is said that “the average temperature in Munich is only one degree higher than in Stavanger.” We’ll have to take the duo’s word for it. However, the average for high temperatures, when the computer needs cooling most, is higher in Munich for ten of the twelve months of the year. In the summer, it increases by 20-30 percent.

Glass beads are a legend

It is then said that German data centers run primarily on green energy, so Norway’s sustainable energy mix should not dictate the presence of data centers here either. A quick look at data from Electricitymaps.com shows that Germany’s electricity consumption in the past 12 months generated 390 grams of so-called carbon dioxide equivalents per kilowatt hour, 61 percent of which was renewable and the rest came largely from power plants that Coal powered. The vasset in the southwestern part of Norway was 24 grams and 99 percent renewable.

Right-wing leaders Hernes and Folgero point to the oil adventure and call for a “new Jens Evensen” who can secure Norway’s interests. Have they forgotten Erna Solberg, who in 2018 launched the government’s data center strategy “Norway as a data-centric country”? Broad political agreement has led to the strategy now being pursued and updated by the Storr government.

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“We never sold oil for glass beads,” historians wrote, referring to the story that the natives sold Manhattan to the Dutch for a bag of glass beads and were thus cheated. There’s actually one too myth.


Hanisi Anenih

Hanisi Anenih

"Web specialist. Lifelong zombie maven. Coffee ninja. Hipster-friendly analyst."

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