Electricity consumed by data centres jumps by 144% in five years

New CSO data reveals surge in energy demand from data centres in Ireland

Electricity consumed by data centres in Ireland jumped by 144 per cent between 2015 and 2020, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Over the same period, the percentage of electricity consumed by these centres rose from 5 per cent to 11 per cent of overall usage.

"The increase in consumption was driven by a combination of existing data centres using more electricity and new data centres being added to the grid," the CSO's Niamh Shanahan said.

The findings come amid an increasingly heated debate about data centres and their energy demands. Used to house the computer storage systems, these centres are expected to account for 27 per cent of all electricity demand by 2028, up from 11 per cent currently.

Security of supply

There are now 70 operational data centres in the State. Most are concentrated around Dublin, which has been dubbed the data centre capital of Europe.

The State is, however, facing a serious challenge in relation to the security of its energy supply, in part because of increased energy consumption from data centres.

National grid operator Eirgrid has placed a moratorium on new data centre projects in the greater Dublin area, saying it would not provide connection agreements for new facilities until at least 2028.

It also warned that, unless action is taken, the State could face a shortfall of electricity supply over the next five winters. As a result, the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities has ordered several measures to boost supply, including temporary generators and keeping older plants open.

Coal- and oil-burning electricity plants at Tarbert and Moneypoint may have to be kept operating beyond their scheduled closing dates to avoid power cuts, potentially compromising Government climate change ambitions.

IDA Ireland has previously flagged concerns among international investors that data centres were being “scapegoated” for what is a crisis in electricity supply.

The CSO data show quarterly metered electricity consumption by data centres here increased steadily from 290 Gigawatt hours in the first quarter of 2015 to 849 Gigawatt hours in the fourth quarter of 2020