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Central Statistics Office

Electricity consumption by data centres up 32% in 2021, new figures show

The figures show that data centres are now consuming more electricity than rural homes.

ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION BY data centres increased by almost a third in a single year, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office. 

The figures show that there was a 32% increase in the use of electricity by data centres between 2020 and 2021. 

The amount of electricity consumed by data centres between October to December 2021 rose by 265% compared to January to March 2015.

The figures also show that the total amount of the country’s electricity consumed by data centres almost tripled in six years, from 5% in 2015 to 14% in 2021.

In comparison, rural homes accounted for 12% of metered electricity consumed last year, while 21% was consumed by urban dwellings.

Quarterly metered electricity consumption by data centres increased from 290 Gigawatt hours in the first quarter of 2015 to 1,058 Gigawatt hours in the last quarter of 2021.

“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,” said Niamh Shanahan, statistician in the CSO’s environment and climate division.

There are around 70 data centres in Ireland, with tech giants Amazon, Facebook and Google all having storage facilities here. Another eight are currently under construction.

Host in Ireland, an industry group, estimated that €7 billion was spent on building facilities between 2010 and 2020, with another €7 billion expected to be invested in the five-year period up to 2026.

EirGrid has predicted that the centres will account for 29% of the country’s power demand by 2028, up from 11% in 2020.

Last year, EirGrid’s chief executive Mark Foley told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action that data centres are a “critical part of the social and economic fabric of 21st century living”.

“I think what the regulator has been doing over the last couple of months and will be publishing, I believe, in the near term, will strike that right balance where the data centres can get connections and sign contracts with us into the future, but they’ll have to bring something to the party in terms of helping us work through the next number of years and the challenges that we have,” Foley said.

The committee also heard that the current growth in the country’s electricity demand due to data centres is “unlike anything Ireland has seen in the past 100 years”.

Aoife MacEvilly, Chairperson of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, told the committee that the demand “is connecting to the grid more quickly and easily than it has proven possible to deliver the supporting transmission and generation infrastructure”. 

The figures also show that large energy users with very high consumption accounted for 23% of total metered consumption in 2021. The total metered electricity consumption in 2021 was 28,506 GWh, a 5% increase on 2020.

Consumption by large energy users increased by 17% between 2020 and 2021 and by 80% between 2015 and 2021.

Urban residential dwellings consumed 21%, while rural residential dwellings consumed 12% of total metered electricity consumption in 2021.

Dublin postal districts had the highest proportion of residential consumption in 2021 at 18%, followed by Cork at 12%, Dublin county at 7%, Galway at 6% and Kildare at 5%.

“Counties with dwellings using electricity as their main space heating fuel as well as the total number of meters are the main underlying factors determining residential demand,” Shanahan said.

The number of non-residential electricity meters increased from 274,094 in 2015 to 290,384 in 2021 while the number of residential electricity meters increased by around 106,000 in the same period.

With reporting by Catherine Healy and Lauren Boland.

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