Call for moratorium on data centres amid concern over approval for Amazon projects

Government has ‘essentially rolled out the red carpet’ for facilities says Social Democrats spokesperson on Climate, Jennifer Whitmore

The Social Democrats spokesperson on Climate, Wicklow TD Jennifer Whitmore has called for a moratorium on data centres until their impact on the national electrical grid and the price of electricity can be determined.

Ms Whitmore was commenting on plans by Amazon for two data centres in south county Dublin.

She told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that the Government had “essentially rolled out the red carpet” for data centres claiming that they would create jobs.

In view of recent energy Amber Alerts and the potential of black outs this winter, the question had to be asked “how many data centres do we need?” added Ms Whitmore.

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The Government was not managing the situation strategically, she said. While some data centres were better than others even if they did utilise renewable energy, any extra energy should be going to homes and small businesses.

The rights of citizens had to be considered and there was also a reputational risk to the country, warned Ms Whitmore. “If we can’t keep the lights on, who will invest here?”

The IDA had already expressed concern about energy security, she added. The Government needed to be strategic about the issue and not undermine energy security.

Ms Whitmore’s comments came in response to the news that Amazon has secured planning permission for two new data centres in north Dublin, despite objections from environmental groups which expressed concern that it would place further pressure on limited energy supplies and have an adverse environmental impact.

Dublin City Council approved an application made by Amazon through Colliers Properties for permission to construct two new data centres on a 3.75-hectare site in Clonshaugh Business and Technology Park.

A division of the US multinational, Amazon Web Services, already has a data centre at the same location.

A dozen emergency generators will also be located in adjoining compounds.

Amazon has estimated that between 15 and 58 staff will work at the data centres over a 24-hour period, while up to 400 staff will be employed during the construction phase of the project.

Official figures showed data centres accounted for 14 per cent of all electricity demand in the Republic last year with Eirgrid estimating they could account for 29 per cent by 2028.

Members of South Dublin County Council are currently locked in a row with the planning regulator after they imposed an effective ban on all future developments of new data centres in its administrative area.

Earlier this year Eirgrid said it would not be providing any new grid connections for data centres in the Dublin region until 2028 due to capacity constraints.

However, the Commission of Regulation of Utilities ruled out a moratorium on new data centres saying the location of future facilities and their ability to generate their own power supplies would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

In its application, consultants for Amazon said the company was committed to building a sustainable business “for our customers and the planet”.

Amazon told council planners that its new 115-megawatt wind farm project in Galway which became operational this year would support the company’s data centres in the Republic and add to its existing wind farm projects in Cork and Donegal.

The company said it was committed to offtake 100% of the power from its renewable energy projects.

Environmental group, Not Here Not Now, which opposed the development of the new data centres, said the proposed use of diesel emergency generators would result in fossil fuels being used to power them on occasion.

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a media monitor and reporter