The Government Statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland's Enterprise Strategy 2018 acknowledged the role of data centres as part of the digital and communications infrastructure for many sectors of our economy. The statement also noted that data centres pose considerable challenges to the future planning and operation of Ireland’s power system.
In 2020, data centres accounted for approximately 11% of the total electricity used in Ireland, demonstrating that the impact of data centres on Ireland’s energy demand and the related electricity emissions is significant. EirGrid, in its Generation Capacity Statement 2020-2029, project that demand from data centres could account for 27% of all demand by 2029.
Electricity and gas retail markets in Ireland operate within a European regulatory regime, wherein these markets are commercial, liberalised and competitive. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, is responsible for ensuring all electricity customers and network users receive value for money within a transparent, fair and equitable charging regime. The costs of renewables are supported by the public service obligation, PSO, levy which is charged to all electricity final customers in Ireland, including large energy users.
Operating within the overall EU framework, responsibility for the regulation of these matters is solely a matter for the CRU. In June 2021, the CRU published a proposed direction to the electricity system operators related to data centre grid connection for consultation. This included a number of options for managing data centre connection demand.
Earlier this year, EirGrid carried out a public consultation entitled Shaping our Electricity Future. The aim is to make the electricity grid stronger and more flexible so that it can carry significantly more renewable generation as well as meet increasing demand from high-volume energy users such as data centres. This may include potential geographic restrictions or incentives of large demand customers closer to the generation of power, potentially giving a more regional balance of data centres.