Data centres will add to electricity demand challenge, says Minister

Alex White to bring White Paper on energy policy to Cabinet Tuesday

Minister for Communications and Energy Alex White is to bring a white paper on energy policy to Cabinet Tuesday. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Communications and Energy Alex White is to bring a white paper on energy policy to Cabinet Tuesday. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A significant proportion of increased electricity demand in Dublin in future will be taken by data centres being operated by multinational technology companies, Minister for Communications and Energy Alex White has said.

There are three such centres already in Ireland with plans for further data storage facilities, including a massive Apple facility in in Athenry, Co Galway.

“There is recognition that there is a big energy requirement associated with data centres,” said Mr White.

It is also likely that technology companies will want the data centres to be powered by renewable energy sources, rather than fossil fuels.

Mr White was speaking at the global climate summit, COP21, in Paris. During the course of his visit on Monday, he held meetings with a number of companies, including Google, on data storage issues.

His visit to Paris comes on the eve of his bringing the White Paper on energy policy to Cabinet. The paper will set the policy framework for energy in Ireland between now and 2030.

It is understood it envisages a further shift away from fossil fuels towards renewables. One of the key issues with variable sources of energy such as wind is storage.

The White Paper sets out solutions for “integrated” networks that will provide for storage. A major increase in the use of electric cars could provide one part of the storage solution for excess capacity.

The paper will also provide a more definite road map for the eventual decommissioning of fossil fuel power stations such as Moneypoint and the peat stations in the Midlands.

Mr White said that a lot of emphasis on Ireland’s record last week - following the comments of Taoiseach Enda Kenny on agriculture - was on what Ireland could not do.

Mr White said that he had come to Paris to highlight what Ireland could do and argued that Ireland had a very good record when it came to renewable energy and in research of new sources of energy.

“We are under pressure on the agriculture side. I think that must be [balanced] by the clarity and the commitment that we have shown on the energy policy side.”