Growth of data centres ‘getting out of control’ with almost 100 planned

Minister says planning must match other objectives in response to TD’s criticism

Bríd Smith told the Dáil spoke of the ‘astonishing growth in the number of data centres in Ireland with 54 mostly in the Dublin area’. File photograph: Robbie Reynolds

Bríd Smith told the Dáil spoke of the ‘astonishing growth in the number of data centres in Ireland with 54 mostly in the Dublin area’. File photograph: Robbie Reynolds

 

There has been an “astonishing” growth in the number of data centres in Ireland with almost 100 either in operation, under construction or granted planning permission, the Dáil has been told.

Calling for the Government to reconsider planning legislation that allows data centres “special status” in strategic development with the fast-tracking of planning permission, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith warned that growth in these centres was “getting out of control”.

She said the argument was being made that these centres would have their own renewable energy, but by 2030 “half of the total” of available renewable energy would be “gobbled up by data centres” and that did not make ecological or environmental sense.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan told Ms Smith: “You’re right. We do need to make sure planning matches other objectives.”

Data centres were largely a matter for the Tánaiste as Minister for Enterprise, said Mr Ryan. However, he said securing planning permission was one thing but getting a grid connection was a “real constraint”.

“We cannot allow economic policy go ahead of sustainability policy,” he said. “Every sector has to fit in with the new climate action plan we have and they can, to my mind.”

Mr Ryan also said Eirgrid projected that data centres would account for 27 per cent of all energy demand by 2029, “up from 11 per cent in the last year”.

He said significant increases would be needed in energy generation capacity to meet demand and climate objectives.

Ireland aims to have at least 70 per cent of power supply from renewables and reduce greenhouse emissions by 51per cent by 2030, he said.

Raising the issue during Dáil question time, Ms Smith spoke of the “astonishing growth in the number of data centres in Ireland with 54 mostly in the Dublin area and 10 more under construction.

“Planning permission has also been granted for about 31 extra,” she said.

As well as using up energy she said they use vast quantities of water, a public resource “at the heart of politics”.

Mr Ryan told her there would be opportunities so that “if data centres are located correctly and the grid connected to them we will be able to run data centres efficiently with low carbon” emissions.

Ms Smith did not believe this was sustainable and “no other country in the world will have this level of data centres” for Amazon, Facebook and “all the famous high tech companies” located in Ireland.

“It is a dangerous road to go down,” she said and called for removing data centres from the strategic development infrastructure plan.

The Minister said the strategic planning process would have to take into account “the best place” and water use as well.

He added that Eirgrid had this week launched a public consultation process on “achieving our electricity future”.