Record colocation take-up across Europe prompts renewed power supply concerns

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The European colocation market enjoyed another record-breaking quarter of take-up during the first three months of 2021, prompting renewed concerns about the pressure all this growth is putting on the electricity grids in several of the continent’s colocation hubs.

According to real estate consultancy CBRE’s latest quarterly look at how the demand for colocation capacity is faring in the datacentre hubs of Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris (Flap), the collective take-up of datacentre capacity in these cities hit a record 92MW during Q1 of 2021.

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This is markedly higher than the previous record of 69MW, which occurred during the final quarter of 2020, and constitutes nearly half of the total take-up that was seen during the whole of 2020 – when full-year take-up rates amounted to 201MW.

Furthermore 136MW of new datacentre capacity came online during Q1 compared to 173MW during the whole of 2020, suggesting the FLAP markets have plenty of room to grow through the rest of 2021.

CBRE cited the continued demand seen for cloud services through the Covid-19 pandemic as a key driver of these trends, which has prompted many of the hyperscalers to seek out colocation capacity in these hubs.

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According to its data, 92% (85MW) of the total take-up of colocation capacity seen during Q1 was consumed by cloud providers in London and Paris, predominantly.

On this point, details of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) plans to build a datacentre in the south of Paris were revealed during the quarter, while the French capital city also achieved 40MW of take-up during this time which is more than it has seen previously in an entire year.

At the same time, CBRE said it is also seeing demand for datacentre capacity in these zones being driven by smaller cloud platform providers who are seeking to increase the size of their availability zones in response to the growing enterprise demand seen for their services.

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“While hyperscalers still account for most deals above 10MW, we are seeing an increasing amount of 1.5MW-4MW deals for smaller cloud platform providers. Like hyperscalers, these cloud providers are seeing growing enterprise demand and are increasing the size of their availability zones,” said  the CBRE report.

This is a trend that appears to be playing out in London, with CBRE noting the market saw take-up deals ranging in size from lkW to “multiples of 10MW” as firms looked to build out their hyperscale, edge and telco datacentre environments.  

“In all markets, there has also been an increase in supply requirements from hosting, managed service and internet service providers. Many operators saw a requirement from existing customers in these subsectors to expand their footprint to meet increasing enterprise demand resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report added.

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Looking ahead, however, CBRE flagged that London is “starting to show some concerns around the availability of power in its busiest hub” and “scarcity of supply” remains a challenge in Frankfurt for similar reasons, while Amsterdam is continuing to limit hyperscale developers because of power supply concerns.

Twin challenges

The report concluded with a brief look at how Dublin, now Europe’s second biggest datacentre market, is balancing the twin challenges of accommodating the colocation demand of the hyperscalers while ensuring there is sufficient capacity in its electricity grid to service them.

This is a balancing act other markets in Europe are trying to negotiate, and are now “carefully watching developments” in Dublin to see how the situation there pans out, the report stated.

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The market is unique in that all of the major hyperscale operators have a presence there, which marks it apart from the rest of the European colocation market, said CBRE, and at least 517MW of additional capacity could be set to come online in Dublin by 2023.

“Dublin’s electricity grid was not built to cater for such high demand from datacentre providers,” the report stated, which is why the Irish government, datacentre operators and the energy companies are currently consulting on how best to address this issue.

“Ireland’s challenges today are likely to be mimicked in other markets in future and will act as a clear example of what can and can’t be done to foster datacentre market growth,” the report continued.

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“These challenges are also likely to influence future datacentre design and build decisions across Europe.”

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