The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has released figures on the electricity consumption of Ireland’s data centres for the first time, showing an increased strain on Ireland’s power grid between 2015 and 2020.
The new figures released today (20 January) shows electricity consumption by data centres increased by 144pc between 2015 and 2020. The report shows data centre power usage rose 193pc between the first three months of 2015 and the last three months of 2020.
The report also shows their total electricity consumption has grown from 5pc to 11pc in the same period, while Ireland’s total metered electricity consumption rose by 10pc or 2,456 GW hours.
Statistician in the CSO’s Environment and Climate Division, Niamh Shanahan, said these figures show “a steady increase from quarter to quarter”.
“The increase in consumption was driven by a combination of existing data centres using more electricity and new data centres being added to the grid,” Shanahan added.
The CSO used various approaches to identify data centres for these figures, but added that there is no agreed definition of a data centre. Reports produced by other organisations, the CSO Business Register and internet searches were also used.
Growing energy concerns
Data centres have been a contentious topic in Ireland in recent months, due to their potential environmental impact and the toll they may take on the country’s energy supply.
In September, grid operator EirGrid predicted “electricity supply challenges” for Ireland in the coming years in part due to the growth of demand driven by large energy users, and that data centres could account for a quarter of the country’s electricity usage by 2030.
To ensure data centres do not put pressure on Ireland’s grid, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities issued new directions on connection applications from data centres for electricity grid operators last November.
These include assessing facilities based on their location – something that is already on EirGrid’s radar – as well as the ability to generate their own power and ability to power the grid in times of peak demand.
But while the energy impact of data centres is undeniable, the need for these facilities to manage the ever-growing levels of data in the world is not going away.
With that in mind, many companies are hoping to make these facilities more sustainable. Microsoft plans to reduce water use in its data centres by 95pc by 2024 using a new approach to temperature management.
Last month, the CEO of data centre operator Verne Global, Dominic Ward, said sustainability is going to be the one overriding trend that will remain “front and centre for the foreseeable future” within the industry.
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