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Energy regulator decides against moratorium on new data centres connecting to grid

The CRU reserves the right to block new data centres in the future to “protect security of supply”.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

IRELAND’S ENERGY REGULATOR has decided against implementing a moratorium on new data centres connecting to the national grid in a decision published today.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities, which is responsible for regulating energy and water in Ireland, will not be imposing a moratorium at this time.

However, it has reserved the right to put one in place in the future if it deems it a necessary move to “protect security of supply”.

Instead, the CRU is directing EirGrid and the ESB Network to implement a specific set of assessment criteria for processing data centre grid connection applications.

In its decision document, which was expected to be published last month, the CRU outlines that there is an “evolving, significant risk to electricity security of supply in Ireland”.

“A significant contributory factor to this risk is a large increase in electricity demand presented by the growth of the data centre industry,” the CRU says.

The CRU is concerned that continuing to allow data centres to connect to the electricity network in accordance with current arrangements will significantly impact the CRU’s ability to comply with its statutory obligation to protect the security of supply of electricity by ensuring that the electricity system can meet the reasonable demands of all consumers, including the demands of existing data centres.

At present, the electricity system in Ireland is “experiencing a generation delivery shortfall resulting in an imminent threat to security of supply”.

The CRU has told EirGrid and ESB Networks to consider the following criteria for whether new data centres should be allowed to connect to the grid:

  • The location of the centre and its region in the electricity system
  • The data centre’s ability to generate and/or store energy greater than its demand
  • Its ability to be flexible in its demand by reducing consumption if requested to do so

Earlier this year, an all-island analysis of energy generation capacity published by EirGrid and SONI found that predicted long-term demand for Ireland is significantly influenced by the growth of large energy users, particularly data centres.

The generation capacity statement said that data centres need a large amount of power – around the same as a large town.

It said the demand from data centres could account for 27% of all of Ireland’s energy demand by 2029.

In a submission to the CRU, the Department of Enterprise wrote that it agreed that a ‘do nothing’ option “would not be sensible”, but also that a moratorium would be “disproportionate and inequitable given the positive role they play in economic development”.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) told the CRU that it believes “all opportunities to introduce flexibility to the system should be explored before consideration is given to a moratorium”.

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However, Friends of the Earth Ireland, a campaign movement against pollution, submitted that “although the CRU notes that data centres may provide certain economic benefits, it is important to underline that such benefits would be entirely undermined by a more costly, insecure, high-emissions system that runs counter to climate obligations”.

Friends of the Earth was “concerned” that the CRU had rejected the option of a moratorium “outright with a short explanation that other mechanisms can instead be employed”.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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