While recognising the importance of data centres, Ireland wants to align twin transitions to digital and green energy in a sustainable way.
Ireland’s Government has agreed a new set of principles around the growth of data centres in Ireland.
While not curtailing their growth, the new principles point to “significant capacity restraints” in Ireland’s electricity system and voice clear preferences for data centres that can grow the economy, that use renewable energy and that co-locate or are in proximity to future-proofed energy supply.
“While data centres currently account for just under 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions, they are responsible for about 14% of Irish electricity use”
“Data is an essential enabler of our increasingly digital economy and society facilitating everything from remote working, on-line learning and e-health to on-line retail, food service delivery, banking, and payments,” the Irish Government stated.
“However, we must align the twin transitions which are both digital and green. While data centres currently account for just under 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions, they are responsible for about 14% of Irish electricity use.
“Recognising the significant capacity constraints on the electricity system in the short-to-medium term, and the need for decarbonisation of our energy system, the revised Statement adopts a set of principles to harness the economic and societal benefits that data centres bring, facilitating sustainable data centre development that adheres to our energy and enterprise policy objectives.”
- Economic Impact: The Government has a preference for data centre developments associated with strong economic activity and employment.
- Grid Capacity and Efficiency: The Government has a preference for data centre developments that make efficient use of our electricity grid, using available capacity and alleviating constraints.
- Renewables Additionality: The Government has a preference for data centre developments that can demonstrate the additionality of their renewable energy use in Ireland.
- Co-location or Proximity with Future-proof energy supply: The Government has a preference for data centre developments in locations where there is the potential to co-locate a renewable generation facility or advanced storage with the data centre, supported by a CPPA, private wire or other arrangement.
- Decarbonised Data Centres by Design: The Government has a preference for data centres developments that can demonstrate a clear pathway to decarbonise and ultimately provide net zero data services
- SME Access and Community Benefits: The Government has a preference for data centre developments that provide opportunities for community engagement and assist SMEs, both at the construction phase and throughout the data centre lifecycle.
Impact of data centres in Ireland
There are around 40 data centres in Ireland, with the majority located in north and west Dublin, mainly within proximity of the M50 motorway.
Ibec body Cloud Infrastructure Ireland recently commissioned management consultancy Baringa and data centre consultancy Bitpower Energy Solutions to produce a report which showed that data centres can accelerate the energy transition in Ireland by directly supporting new renewables projects, financing improvements in energy security and networks and offering grid support services.
Not only that but they could play a role in supporting innovative solutions for achieving a zero carbon power system in Ireland and providing zero carbon heat to neighboring buildings.
The report found that data centres attract over €1bn of direct investment into Ireland annually, and are a key part of Ireland’s computer services industry, which generated €134bn of exports in 2020, representing 33% of all Irish exports.
The tech industry in Ireland supported more than 90,000 jobs in 2020, with these jobs growing at more than twice the rate of overall jobs growth and being amongst the best-paying jobs in Ireland.