Apple and Google rally against Ireland's proposed moratorium on new data centers

Jul 28, 2021 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Last month, the People Before Profit party in Ireland proposed an amendment to the Planning and Development act, to place a moratorium on new data centers being built. This proposal follows Ireland's Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), launching a consultation on data center grid connection back in June. It is also a response to fears that the construction of new facilities will negate its climate-neutral goals. Rallying against these legislative changes is the Irish lobby group, The Cloud Infrastructure Ireland group, of which Apple and Google are a part.

The Irish grid regulator, EirGrid, however, highlights that tech giants like Apple and Google are responsible for excessive power consumption in the country. EirGrid also warns that if this kind of energy consumption is sustained, the country could experience "rolling blackouts".

Cloud Infrastructure argues that a moratorium on processing data centre applications in Dublin is the "least desirable of the current options under consideration." However, according to the Irish regulator, without action, by 2029, demand from data centers could account for 27% of all electricity demand in the country. This is a significant jump considering that in 2020 electricity demand accounted for 11%.

Instead of a moratorium, the regulator has recommended grid prioritisation measures; however, the big tech companies are also rejecting this proposal.

The group said: "The consultation proposes that data centres should invest in dispatchable generation (eg, natural gas) to receive new grid connections. [Our] members are willing to invest in new generation, but we strongly prefer targeting those investments to renewable energy and allowing the auction and market mechanisms to procure necessary balancing, firming and peaking resources from the market."

Regarding another proposal that would determine grid access based on location "within a constrained region or unconstrained region," the group said it would "severely restrict investments" in "expanding existing Dublin-based data centres, at a time when demand for digital services is growing."

An increasing number of locations have placed moratoriums on new data centers due to similar fears around energy consumption. This includes Singapore, and Flevoland, Amsterdam, and Haarlemmermeer in the Netherlands.

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