Data centres ‘are a good thing’ and should be accommodated, says IDA chair

New IDA chairman Feargal O’Rourke said that it may be a ‘bumpy’ journey as renewable energy supply is built out to meet data centre demand

Data centres “are a good thing” and Ireland should accommodate them “as much as we can”, according to the IDA’s new chairman.

Feargal O’Rourke told the Oireachtas enterprise, trade and employment committee on Wednesday that as long as the country hits targets for renewable energy production by 2030, more data centres could be accommodated here, although it may be a “bumpy” ride in the interim if data centre energy demand gets ahead of supply.

When asked if the current moratorium on data centre developments in the greater Dublin area is impinging on IDA strategy, Mr O’Rourke said that “data centres are a good thing”, but that the issue lies with renewable energy capacity.

“[Data centres] are a critical part of our digital infrastructure. They’re a critical part of anchoring the technological operations that are here. They play a part in our everyday lives, whether its video conference calls or health records,” he said, noting that there are around 80 data centres currently based in Ireland.


Mr O’Rourke highlighted targets outlined by chairman of EirGrid, Brendan Tuohy, to reach energy supply of 10GW by 2030 (from around 6 or 7GW currently), with 80 per cent of that being from renewable sources.

“I think data centres are good, I think we should accommodate them as much as we can, I think if we get to our planned supply of energy and renewable energy by 2030 we’ll be fine,” he said.

“I suppose I would have a slight concern that the next six years could be a little bumpy, if the demand gets ahead of what the supply of renewable energy will be,” he added.

Mr O’Rourke said that the IDA is working with private companies to incentivise them to establish their own renewable energy systems to help power their data centres, through grant aids and making companies aware of what peers are doing.

“Also, that push is coming from within the organisations themselves. You can take it that within the organisations it’s happening, and we’re supporting them to do that locally,” he said.

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Mr O’Rourke, a former managing partner at PwC, took over as chairman of IDA Ireland in January. He told the Oireachtas committee that the “single biggest task” for the agency is to “shape a strategy” for the organisation for the next four years.

Among key strategic challenges for foreign direct investment in Ireland, Mr O’Rourke listed renewable energy, as well as housing, water and the grid system – and warned that if 2030 targets are not met then “we will run into issues”.

“Whether it’s water, whether it’s the grid system, whether it’s renewable power, there are plans in train ... I think at the moment we’re just ahead of the game, but I don’t think we can afford to slow the progress we’re making on grid investment, renewable power investment, housing over the next five or six years,” he said.

Ellen O'Regan

Ellen O’Regan

Ellen O’Regan is an Irish Times journalist.