Warning on data centres’ increasing energy consumption expected in report

Usage could outpace grid’s capacity to generate more electricity, report likely to say

The coming report from EirGrid is expected to say it has seen annual increases in demand of approximately 600 GWh from data centres. Photograph: iStock

The coming report from EirGrid is expected to say it has seen annual increases in demand of approximately 600 GWh from data centres. Photograph: iStock

 

Increasing energy consumption by data centres will outpace the capacity of the system to generate more electricity in the coming years if the current growth rate continues, a report to be published this week is expected to warn.

The report from EirGrid, the State-owned operator of the national electricity grid, is expected to say that data centre demand is to be the key driver of growth for the foreseeable future.

The leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan, said on Sunday that the capacity of the electricity system to cope with current demand was “pretty tight” and that it would be several years before the system had greater security.

“This is not an insignificant issue,” the Minister for the Environment said during an interview with Dublin City FM.

He also said he expected that the budget process would include consideration of increased social welfare payments to assist people pay for the current international spike in fuel prices.

The coming report from EirGrid is expected to say it has seen annual increases in demand of approximately 600 GWh from data centres, the equivalent of an additional 140,000 households joining the power system every year.

Emergency measures

During the same period demand from sectors outside the data centre industry has been largely flat.

The new, updated All-Island Generation Capacity Statement is expected to identify a generation deficit for the current years if the current level of demand growth continues.

This means that emergency measures may have to be introduced, and that the risk of power outages will increase.

EirGrid estimates that by 2030, data centres may account for 25 per cent of all demand.

This is a median estimate, with an alternative forecast estimating that data centres could account for 33 per cent of all demand by 2030.

Since 2018, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has been pursuing a policy of promoting Ireland as a digital economy hotspot, with the development of data centres being a key aspect of the plan.

It is understood the EirGrid estimate that data centres could be accounting for up to 33 per cent of all electricity demand within less than a decade does not take into account a number of huge applications that have recently been received in relation to data centres accessing the grid.

Pressure

The pressure the system is already under is reflected in the increased use of a system whereby major users can be asked by EirGrid to temporarily reduce their consumption.

Under the system, groups of significant users are grouped into demand side units (DSUs) and paid to agree to reducing consumption when asked to do so by EirGrid.

Such requests are made when the system is under pressure. There were 67 requests to 20 DSUs since July which, according to EirGrid, is a higher than usual use of the DSU system.