Cloud Infrastructure Ireland report suggests data centres can help accelerate energy transition in Ireland.
Along with the airlines, data centres tend to get a bad rap in terms of CO2 emissions. In Ireland, where it is claimed data centres are putting a strain on limited infrastructure, particularly in Dublin where the majority are located, data centres tend to get an especially bad rap.
But according to a new report these data centres – many owned by tech giants from Amazon, Microsoft and Google to Facebook and Vodafone – these data centres are the engine rooms for economic growth and could be instrumental in helping Ireland meet its climate goals.
“Many decarbonisation solutions depend on data centre capabilities, including software to manage energy use and platforms to buy renewable energy. These are cheaper, faster and more easily scalable thanks to the cloud”
Ibec body Cloud Infrastructure Ireland commissioned management consultancy Baringa and data centre consultancy Bitpower Energy Solutions to examine the role of data centres in modern society and the social and economic value the industry brings to the country.
In particular it looked at the role data centres could play in ensuring a sustainable future for Ireland.
Essential to modern society
According to the report data centres are essential for modern society, powering the cloud and digital revolution that is transforming all sectors of the economy.
The 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.
Enablers of decarbonisation
The report argues that data centres are actually enablers of decarbonisation.
How so? Well, the report claims they use 80% less energy per computing load than traditional on-premises servers, reducing emissions from computing.
They also reduce the need for travel and physical goods, lowering emissions from transport and manufacturing. This was proven true during the pandemic and to this day as thousands of Irish office workers were able to work from home remotely and continue to work in a hybrid capacity.
Value of data centres to the Irish economy
According to the report 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.
Dr Mark Turner, Partner with Baringa, said: “This report reveals how hyper-scale data centres are vital cogs in the Irish economy and can play a positive and long-term role in helping the country progress its sustainability goals. The report also establishes that data centres, and the digitalisation they enable, can drive emissions reductions across the economy in multiple ways.
“The report contains clear recommendations for policymakers that could, if implemented, unlock additional investment in Ireland’s digital infrastructure and help develop a more robust and sustainable domestic power system. Their implementation would also generate a number of other benefits, including boosting the economy, strengthening Ireland’s digital leadership, and facilitating its energy transition.”
Michael McCarthy, Director of Cloud Infrastructure Ireland (CII), said the report clearly outlines both the advantages and opportunities that hyper-scale data centre investment creates for Ireland.
“Whilst recent growth of our sector has brought challenges, the report sets out how they can be jointly addressed by industry and policymakers while preserving the benefits that this digital infrastructure continues to deliver for people and society here.”
“The findings on sustainability and energy transition are especially telling. Many decarbonisation solutions depend on data centre capabilities, including software to manage energy use and platforms to buy renewable energy. These are cheaper, faster and more easily scalable thanks to the cloud. A cross-sector study in Germany, for example, found that potentially half of the country’s planned reductions in emissions by 2030 could be delivered by rapid digitalisation.
“The Baringa-Bitpower report shows that we have a similar opportunity in Ireland. By engaging with the sector, we have the potential to create a win-win scenario whereby Ireland continues to benefit from investment in the most efficient data centres while also harnessing the cloud to address escalating climate challenges.”
Hyper-scale data centre operators have a track record of investing directly in renewable generation in Ireland, explained David McAuley, founder and CEO of Bitpower.
“We believe that with positive engagement the industry can play an important role in helping to realise the ambitions of the Irish Government’s Climate Action Plan.”