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Energy

Amazon seeks direct renewable power for Japan data centers

US e-commerce leader in search of clean energy to power cloud services

Amazon already powers data centers in Europe and North America using renewable energy, and is now preparing to do the same with its seven centers in Japan. 

TOKYO -- Amazon.com is in talks with Japanese power companies and trading houses to build a first renewable energy power plant for its data centers in the country, Nikkei has learned.

Amazon is seeking ways to procure electricity over the long term from exclusive renewable energy power stations.

A Japanese trading house hopes to make a public bid for an offshore wind power plant project near Akita prefecture that would supply electricity to Amazon.

Amazon is also in talks with power companies to build a new solar power plant. The company aims to make all the power consumed globally by its data centers renewable by 2025. There are seven in Japan, and some of them will be run on renewables.

Amazon told Nikkei that in its global search for clean energy, the company will purchase from new power plants on an exclusive basis rather than procure renewable energy from existing providers. 

Demand is endless. A single large data center can consume a tenth of the power generated by an average nuclear power plant.

As the world's biggest cloud service provider, Amazon has data centers in 80 locations around the world. It already has renewable arrangements for its cloud business in 62 of those, mostly in Europe and North America.

Progress has been slower in Japan where the decarbonization drive has been sluggish. Only 20% of electricity generation is from renewable sources at present. 

The steady increase in data centers makes change essential. According to Japan's Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry, the power needed for data centers in 2021 will be at least 16% higher than it was in 2016.

Japanese companies such as NEC and NTT Data are meanwhile researching ways of making data centers more energy efficient.

Japan's limited renewable energy infrastructure does not bode well for reducing carbon emissions any time soon, but some municipalities have at least made a start. Ishikari in Hokkaido prefecture has plans for a renewably powered data center in partnership with Kyocera Communication Systems.

In 2020, Amazon announced more than 30 investments in renewable energy projects. In one year, it created generating capacity for over 4 million kilowatts of renewable electricity -- the highest for any global corporate. It has also invested in a fleet of 100,000 electric delivery vehicles. 

Other major tech companies have also joined the race against fossil fuels. Apple, for example, is aiming for zero CO2 emissions by 2030 and has asked suppliers to cooperate. 

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