Republic of Ireland: Figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal huge energy consumption by data centers in Ireland

May 06, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) have outlined that the energy consumption situation in Ireland is just as bad as groups such as An Taisce have warned. According to the Office's statistics, last year, data centers consumed more energy than rural homes. According to the National Planning Framework, rural areas are classed as such if they have a population of less than 10,000. In Ireland, 1.8 million people live in rural areas.

Data centers' energy consumption figure has tripled in the last six years, shooting up from 5% in 2015 to 14% last year, increasing 32% in that year. Moreover, the figures showed that "metered electricity consumption" by data centers increased from 290 gigawatt-hours in the period January-March 2015 to 1,058 in October-December 2021. For reference, 500,000 homes can be powered by just one gigawatt of power.

According to the CSO's statistician in the CSO's environment and climate division, Niamh Shanahan, while the increase is being driven by a mix of current facilities using more, and more data centers being added to the grid, a small number of data centers are responsible for the consumption.

Currently, there is a de facto moratorium on new data center developments in the greater Dublin area, which EirGrid imposed, where new data centers are being considered on a case-by-case basis. That said, these new figures released by the CSO have ushered in fresh calls for a total moratorium on new data centers. 

According to Dr. Patrick Bresnihan, a geography lecturer at Maynooth University, the CSO's report gives "statistical credence to people's informal sense that there is some kind of unfairness or some injustice here." He outlined that going forward, people "aren't going to swallow" the fact they're being encouraged to make changes to their consumption when many data centers are consuming such huge amounts of energy. 

Currently, there are around 70 data centers in Ireland, ten new facilities that were made operational in 2020, and €7 billion ($7.4 billion) estimated to be spent on more between now and 2026.

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