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Government to oppose proposal to ban data centres in Ireland

The Taoiseach has said banning data centres is ‘too crude a measure’.

Image: Shutterstock/pinkeyes

Updated Sep 28th 2021, 7:10 PM

DATA CENTRES THAT are currently proposed for development in Ireland could use as much as 70% of Ireland’s electricity grid capacity in 2030 if they are given the green light, an Oireachtas committee has head.

Dr Patrick Bresnihan of Maynooth University told the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment and Climate Change that he had concerns about the expansion of data centres around the country.

The committee was told that the government will find it more difficult to achieve its emission targets by 2030 if additional data centres end up feeding off the national grid.

His comments come after Solidarity-People Before Profit tabled a Private Members Bill that seeks to ban future data centre planning permissions.

Citing the evidence presented from Bresnihan, TD Bríd Smith said any attempts to block the bill will “fly in the face of any serious climate agenda for the government”. 

She appealed to the Green Party in particular not to block the bill, stating that it is “totally ridiculous” that Eamon Ryan would try to do so.

However, the government – including the Green Party – has confirmed that it will oppose the bill.

Smith said her party’s bill would not apply to the data centres that have already received planning permission, but could impact those that currently only have applications submitted. 

The Journal asked the Taoiseach in New York last week about the proposal to stop new data centres from being built. 

Micheál Martin said the proposal to ban data centres is “not the way to do it” calling it  “too crude a measure”. 

He agreed that such centres drain a huge amount of energy from the grid, but said that due to the “technological transformation that is required, they are required”. 

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“The number and the level is something we can review,” he added.

But curtailing the number of data centres should not be done through legislation, he said, because he believed this is “not an intelligent way of approaching what is a genuine issues”.

Martin said a review is currently underway with Eirgrid and Ryan, the Environment Minister. 

Smith said this morning on the Leinster House plinth that there needs to be more transparency around “exactly what all of these data centres do”, but added that it also comes down to the government not being able to reach our climate targets and continue to grow this level of data mining throughout the globe.

“Ireland is way out of kilter with the rest of the world, on average 2% of the national grid energy is used by data centres in other countries” while between 11 and 12% is used here in Ireland, she said.

The bill being proposed by People Before Profit will also seek to ban planning permissions for liquefied natural gas terminals and prohibit any develop in fossil fuel infrastructure except in limited circumstances.

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