Climate goals more important than data centres, Eamon Ryan says

Tech firm facilities ‘cannot jeopardise’ cutting carbon emissions by 51% by 2030

The number of data centres in the State "cannot jeopardise" Ireland's chances of hitting its carbon targets by 2030, according to Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan.

A spokesman for Mr Ryan said he had previously expressed the hope that the State could work with technology firms on the decarbonisation of the data centre industry, through the use of low-carbon wind and other technologies.

However, he signalled that climate goals would take precedence.

"While data centres play a vital role in a modern, technological society, Minister Ryan is clear that increasing the number of facilities in Ireland cannot jeopardise the State's target of reducing carbon emissions by 51 per cent by 2030," the spokesman said.


Energy blackouts

In the wake of weekend reports that the chances of energy blackouts had increased, Mr Ryan’s spokesman said a number of contingency plans were being pursued to ensure security of supply this winter.

Sunday's Business Post reported that a plan to import emergency power generators housed in Dublin's North Wall area had been scuppered following legal threats on competition grounds. It is understood the Environmental Protection Agency also protested over the move.

Eirgrid, the national grid operator, abandoned the plans. It is hoped that two gas-powered plants – at Huntstown, Co Dublin, and Whitegate, Co Cork – currently out of action can be repaired in time for winter energy peaks. "Minister Ryan is confident that the two gas-powered plants that are currently out of operation will be up and running in the coming months."

Security of supply

“In addition, a number of other contingency measures are being pursued to ensure security of supply this winter. These include increasing the availability of existing generators; the development of new generation capacity; and changes to the grid connection of data centres,” Mr Ryan’s spokesman said.

An Eirgrid spokesman said several factors, including the Covid pandemic delaying maintenance and repairs, had combined and resulted in the potential to place increased pressure on the system, meaning further “system alerts” may be issued. A system alert occurs when the margin, or cushion, between supply and demand for electricity is very limited.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times