Data centres are a key dimension of electricity demand growth in Ireland. While data centres have until recently accounted for less than 2% of Ireland’s total electricity demand, EirGrid in their Generation Capacity Statement 2018-2027 project that demand from data centres could account for 31% of all demand by 2027.
Data centres consume very large amounts of energy and have a flat, predictable demand profile meaning that they use the same amount of electricity throughout the day and night and therefore require a range of generation technologies to meet their demand. Given the quantum of electricity required to power data centres, it is important that renewable projects are developed to meet the demand for additional renewable electricity generation and the costs of this are minimised for consumers. The Government Statement on the role of data centres in Ireland's Enterprise Strategy, 2018 recognises that a plan-led approach is needed to develop a range of measures to promote regional options for data centre investment, minimising the need for additional grid infrastructure.
Significant increases in volumes of renewable generation capacity will be required to meet the Ireland’s increasing electricity demand including from data centres. Ireland’s first National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) will include trajectories for renewable energy (including renewable electricity ambitions), energy efficiency, and national emissions, as well as the measures required to achieve these trajectories. The new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is being designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contribution to EU-wide targets out to 2030.
The ultimate auction timetable and volumes to be procured will be determined based on the analysis carried out as part of the NECP and in line with the ambitions set out in the all of Government Climate Action Plan. This will be informed by an assessment of the supply pipeline of eligible projects to ensure competitive outcomes for consumers. In addition, corporate power purchase agreements, where large demand users such as data centres contract directly with renewable energy projects, will be an important driver for bringing new projects on line. It will be critical that there is a strong supply of renewable energy projects coming through the planning and grid connection processes to meet our 2030 ambitions.