A view of Meta's data center in Clonee, Co Meath. Alamy Stock Photo
Data centre

Meta paying back sizeable electricity bill after ESB error saw firm undercharged for 18 months

FOI records detail how two new transformers that were installed at Meta’s data centre site in Clonee, Co Meath were never properly set up for billing.

SOCIAL MEDIA GIANT Meta is in the process of paying back a sizable underpaid electricity bill after power usage was recorded incorrectly at one of its data centres for a period of eighteen months.

The Facebook and Instagram parent company had contacted Eirgrid in relation to what they believed was a “possible underbilling” with the discrepancy escalated to ESB Networks to investigate why their bill was so low.

FOI records detail how two new transformers that were installed at Meta’s data centre site in Clonee, Co Meath were never properly set up for billing. The data centre has electricity consumption equivalent to 150,000 homes.

A preliminary report from ESB Networks said: “Registration of the additional metering is a manual process that relies on data being communicated from on-site personnel to Profile Data Services (PDS).

“In this instance, an error was made and communication to PDS did not take place which meant that these new transformers were energised without the meters being registered and hence relevant consumption data from these meters was not issued to the supplier.”

The report was forwarded to energy and water regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, with a reassurance that the underbilling of Meta was likely to be a one-off.

In an email, a manager in ESB Networks said they wanted to “apologise” for the incident and said new procedures had been put in place to help ensure something similar did not happen again.

ESB Networks also reported they had carried out a wider investigation and said to date there was nothing to suggest the undercharging had been a “systemic” problem.

Their preliminary report said: “A thorough review of all sites is underway, estimated time to complete this review is mid-June.”

ESB Networks also said one of their technicians had visited the site to ensure correct meter details had now been entered into their central databases and to calculate how much power was involved.

“Consumption readings were recovered off the meter directly,” said the report, “allowing [us] to profile consumption back to August 2021. All data has been provided to the energy supplier for recalculation.”

In other emails, ESB Networks expressed concern about suggestions that the Meta undercharge would have to be written off or could not be collected.

A message said: “While we issued re-settlement files to market participants [in April] in accordance with electricity market processes, to facilitate retrospective billing by the supplier, we haven’t responded [to these reports] … with any clarification.”

Asked about the undercharging and the repayment of underpaid bills by Facebook, a spokesman said: “ESB Networks does not comment on specifics in relation to the electricity consumption of individual customers.

“In general, should a discrepancy in historic data occur for a particular customer, then agreed electricity market processes are invoked to address the matter and to ensure that customers can be billed for their actual consumption.

“With regard to the undercharge issue in the records you reference, we can confirm that this process is well underway and the undercharge is being progressed through electricity market processes.”

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