Big Tech’s Hunger for Data Centers Drives Green Construction Movement

Swiss cement giant Holcim is fielding inquiries from clients wanting to build data centers with a smaller carbon footprint.

Bloomberg News

May 17, 2024

2 Min Read
Swiss cement giant Holcim is developing sustainable materials for data centers
Miljan Gutovic during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Holcim net-zero cement plant in Obourg, Belgium, on May 16

(Bloomberg) -- Holcim’s multibillion-dollar quest for environmentally friendly cement is finding support from a very different industry: technology giants including Amazon.

The Swiss manufacturer is getting inquiries from clients wanting to build data centers with a smaller carbon footprint, its new CEO said in an interview Thursday. Holcim plans to invest 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.2 billion) this decade in six cement plants across Europe that use carbon-capture technology to cut emissions.

“Demand for these types of products is growing fast,” Chief Executive Officer Miljan Gutovic said at an event marking the start of construction of such a facility in Obourg, Belgium. “We have big customers of ours like Amazon that today are asking us to build the projects of the future.”

Steel and cement makers are working to offer cleaner products as builders face pressure from regulators to lower emissions. Holcim has unveiled plans to buy electric trucks from Volvo AB and is betting on carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), a process that traps CO2 to use it elsewhere or bury it away.

A boom in artificial intelligence applications such as ChatGPT is driving construction of data centers. Holcim has around 30 such facilities in its pipeline, half of them in Europe. Amazon, a key client, plans to spend almost $150 billion in the coming 15 years on data centers, according to a Bloomberg News tally.

To feed some of those projects, Holcim is planning cement facilities using CCUS in Poland, Germany, Croatia, France and Greece. The company aims to offer more than eight million tons of fully decarbonized cement annually in Europe by 2030.

Decarbonization and more sustainable construction “are going to be our profitable growth drivers and that’s why we are making investments in these areas,” said Gutovic, who took over as CEO from Jan Jenisch this month.

That’s in part because customers will have to pay a premium. Cement produced using CCUS will cost the customer anywhere from 20% more to twice as much, the CEO said.

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