Irish data centres consumed more electricity than rural dwellings in 2021Leigh Mc Gowranon May 3, 2022 at 12:51 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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Irish data centres consumed more electricity than rural dwellings last year as their mark on the power grid continues to rise, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The figures released today (3 May) show electricity consumption by data centres increased by 34pc between 2020 and 2021. Data centre power usage rose 265pc between the first three months of 2015 and the last three months of 2021.

The figures also show the percentage of Ireland’s electricity consumed by data centres rose from 11pc in 2020 to 14pc in 2021. This figure is growing faster in recent years, as it was only 5pc in 2015.

Similar CSO figures released today show that rural residential tariff groups consumed 12pc of Ireland’s electricity last year, while urban tariff groups consumed 21pc.

The figures show Ireland’s total metered electricity consumption increased by 16pc or 3,906 GWh between 2015 and 2021. The amount of electricity consumed by data centres last year was 3,993 GWh, and increase of 2,757 GWh compared to 2015.

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,” she added.

Growing energy concerns

Data centres have grown into a contentious topic in Ireland, due to their environmental impact and the toll they may take on the country’s energy supply. The CSO released figures on their electricity consumption for the first time last January, which showed the increased strain they have had on the country’s power grid in recent years.

Last 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. It added 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 in a way that would see demand outstrip supply, 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 to power the grid in times of peak demand.

Last January, Eirgrid confirmed that it will not connect new data centres in Dublin for the foreseeable future, saying that the area is already constrained and data centre applications will only be considered for other parts of the country on a case-by-case basis.

But while the energy impact of data centres is under the spotlight, the need for these facilities to manage ever-growing levels of data is not going away.

With that in mind, many companies are hoping to make these facilities more sustainable. Dominic Ward, CEO of data centre operator Verne Global, told SiliconRepublic.com last December that 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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