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Data centres gobble up 18% of Ireland’s electricity as country struggles with climate targets

Servecentric Data Centre on the outskirts of Dublin in Ireland
Servecentric Data Centre on the outskirts of Dublin in Ireland Copyright Paul Faith/AFP
Copyright Paul Faith/AFP
By Ian Smith
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New official figures show data centres’ electricity usage in Ireland is surging at a time where the country is failing to meet its climate targets.

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Data centres used almost a fifth of Ireland’s electricity in 2022, new figures reveal.

This is the same amount used by all urban homes during the same period.

The data released by the Central Statistics Office on Monday shows that this was a 31 per cent jump from 2021 and an increase of nearly 400 per cent since 2015 .

The percentage of metered electricity consumed by data centres rose from 5 per cent in 2015 to 18 per cent in 2022.

And there is no sign of these figures declining anytime soon. Earlier this year Amazon lodged plans for three new data centres in Dublin.

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

Data centres have become a point of political contention

Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan told reporters in response to the new figures: “The data centres are a really important, beneficial sector for our country.”

“I think it comes down to every single data centre 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 adds.

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore says that the Irish government is turning a blind eye to a surge in energy consumption by data centres.

“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.”

Why are so many data centres built in Ireland?

Ireland is a small country but it’s home to major European operations of some of the biggest tech companies, like Meta and Microsoft.

Its low corporation tax of 12.5 per cent, skilled workforce and access to the EU’s single market make it an attractive place for ICT companies, including data ones.

This has led to a high number of data centres in the country relative to its population and electricity usage.

Ireland is struggling to meet its climate targets

Environmental groups say this data centre surge is incompatible with Ireland’s climate obligations.

Ireland has an 80 per cent renewables energy target to be achieved by 2030 and has pledged a 75 per cent reduction in emissions in the electricity sector.

Earlier this month the EPA projected that Ireland will “fall well short of its climate targets.”

It added that the electricity sector was on course to miss both its 2025 and 2030 emissions goals.

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