Social media giant TikTok sought assurances from officials in the Department of Communications over concerns it had about Ireland’s “energy security” in recent months, internal correspondence shows.
Senior staff in TikTok’s Irish office wrote to the department in June, seeking to set up a meeting to discuss Ireland’s energy security and the social media company’s “growth plans”.
Susan Moss, head of public policy for the company in Ireland, wrote to officials again the following month repeating the request to meet as “a matter of urgency”, according to emails released under the Freedom of Information Act. Ms Moss said assurances around energy supply were “pertinent to our planned business expansion in Ireland”.
The video-sharing platform wanted to discuss “energy security in the context of gas supply and gas as a backup in data centre operations,” she wrote. The company also wanted to discuss the Commission for Regulation of Utilities guidance on new data centres, given concerns over the impact of their large energy usage on the national grid.
At a July 21st meeting, TikTok raised the company’s “requirement for energy security” in Ireland with officials, as well as stressing data storage was “very important”, according to minutes of the meeting.
The Chinese-owned social media platform recently signed a lease on a six-storey riverfront office building in Dublin’s Docklands. Earlier this year TikTok announced plans to create 1,000 new jobs to bring the number of staff in its Irish offices to about 3,000. It is also building a data centre in Dublin which is expected to be operational next year.
A spokesman for TikTok said the company’s investment in Ireland “predates our intention to establish a data centre here and is not reliant upon our planned data centre operations”.
[ The Irish Times view on data centres: scepticism is warranted ]
Separately, senior staff from Amazon’s Irish office also sought to discuss Ireland’s energy supply with department officials.
In a June 21st email, Richard Scannell, Amazon’s Irish head of public policy, sought a meeting for “a short discussion around energy issues” with officials. The meeting between senior Amazon staff and Mark Griffin, department secretary general, took place in early July.
[ Eirgrid issues ‘system alert’ as electricity squeeze edges Ireland closer to power cuts ]
Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan has repeatedly played down the suggestion there would be any widespread energy blackouts during the winter. Mark Foley, chief executive of EirGrid, has also previously said it would take an “extraordinary confluence of events” for large power cuts to occur over the coming months. However, a recent report by the national grid operator warned potential record demand and declining or unreliable supplies could leave the State facing periods where it may not have enough electricity to meet demand.
A department spokeswoman said the Government was “acutely aware” of concerns around energy supply, particularly gas and electricity. The spokeswoman said EirGrid’s winter outlook report said while supply would be tight, there was “no risk of a system-wide blackout”.
Maintenance work on energy infrastructure had been carried out over the summer, while large energy users had also been encouraged to prepare backup generators for periods of pressure on the national grid, she said.