Ireland calls a halt to data centre expansion


The woes continue to pile up for the Irish data centre sector. A new bill was tabled this week by Deputy Bríd Smith to amend the Planning and Development Act 2000 in order to restrict certain developments in fossil fuels infrastructure and high energy usage data centres, to remove some developments from listing as strategic development infrastructure projects, and to revise the procedure for making applications.

The motion refers to a recent article in the Business Post last week that published research from the Marine Institute, which revealed that the target of reaching a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 51 per cent by 2030 cannot be met if Ireland continues to facilitate the growth of data centres. “It showed that if we allow a corporate rush for data centres on the premise of an ever-expanding market, contrary to what the Minister, Deputy Ryan, has repeatedly said in the House, we cannot have our cake and eat it,” Smith says. “We cannot have an unlimited boom in data centres and fulfil our obligations to try to limit global temperature rises.

“In the world, the Minister seems to believe in, we have to continue to welcome data centres and see more investment in offshore and onshore renewable energy to fuel these very same centres. Thus, we enter a magical roundabout where the land is festooned with data centres empowered by fields of windmills that litter our lands and banks of windmills off our shores and around our coast. I am really not sure whether the Green Party believes in this vision but it is a fantasy. It exposes a basic flaw in the policy of trying to deal with the climate crisis, which is an attempt to marry the insatiable demands of an economy based on the blind pursuit of profit, ever-expanding and increasing markets and an endless accumulation of wealth, with the need for a sustainable humane society in which the people and the planet are a priority. Data centres are not essential for the future of our economy or our society. They are not great investments and they are only essential as a component of an economy built and structured on the needs of the corporate sector.

“There is no way we can reconcile the economy with the needs of addressing the climate crisis when more than 100 data centres are planned in the country, which will consume more than 70 per cent of whatever renewable energy we produce. Therefore, we have a stark choice to make. We can and should be replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy but allowing data centres to gobble up this energy will leave us with a Herculean task to meet the reduction we need to make to stave off the worst of the climate catastrophe. Those who are most enthusiastic about placing carbon taxes on ordinary people to change individual behaviour seem to see it as a given that they do not ever attempt to change the behaviour of corporations or businesses or challenge them.”

According to Host in Ireland, there are 70 operational data centres in Ireland – offering around 900MW of capacity – with another eight under construction that are designed to offer a further 255MW. Ten data centres in Ireland have become operational in the last 12 months alone.

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