Republic of Ireland: As amber energy alert is issued in Ireland, government has no plan to pause data center growth

Jun 14, 2023 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Startling new figures released by the Central Statistics Office have revealed that in just a year, data center power consumption in Ireland has increased by 31 percent; 18 percent of all electricity used in 2022. Yet, Ireland's government is not intending to reduce the number being built in the country. 

According to the Irish Times, there are more than 75 data centers operating in the country - with eight under construction and 30 in the planning stages.

Speaking about the data center presence in Ireland at the National Economic Dialogue, Climate Minister Eamon Ryan called the sector "really important" and "beneficial." "We have a huge advantage of having them here in terms of the potential industries that are based here that come with it.

Adding: "I think it comes down to every single data center looking at what flexible systems they have to deliver low carbon electricity or they can use some of the waste heat."

"Could we use some of the waste heat from those data centres to heat the local hospital, local housing?" He suggested.

Echoing similar sentiments, Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney said that there is "no technology-based economic growth without data centers."

"The challenge for us isn't to reduce the number of data centers in Ireland. The challenge is to find a way of powering them with sustainable abundant power by capturing the potential of, in particular, offshore wind, which I think you'll see a significant change in investment in the next few years."

However, Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore, argues that the government's support of the sector is endangering climate targets: "Data centres put pressure on our national grid, make it more difficult to reach our climate action targets and can lead to rising energy prices. The need for strategic oversight and management of data centres by the government could not be clearer."

Similarly, People Before Profit TD Brid Smith, said the data shows the current government policy is "madness for which ordinary people would pay a high price." 

Indeed, Ireland is on track to fall short of its climate commitments, as noted by the EPA recently. It has an 80 percent renewable energy target with a deadline of 2030; it has also pledged a 75 percent reduction in emissions in the electricity sector. Its data center boom will likely make this difficult. 

Smith pointed to the fact that, unlike the rest of Europe, Ireland is witnessing increased energy demands, "This is almost wholly down to the proliferation of data centres," she said. 

EirGrid  recently issued an amber warning for the grid.