In June 2018, my Department published the ‘Government Statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Policy’, which sets out the strategic importance of data centres to Ireland’s overarching enterprise policy and attracting foreign investment in the ICT sector. The Statement was developed following an agreement of the Government, in October 2017, to create a strategic policy framework to support the continued development of data centres in Ireland. The Government Statement highlights that data centre presence in Ireland raises our visibility internationally as a technology-rich, innovative economy. This in turn places Ireland on the map as a location of choice for a broad range of sectors and activities which are increasingly reliant on digital capabilities including manufacturing, animation, retail, medical devices and financial services.
The Statement itself acknowledges that, as large consumers of electricity, data centres also pose challenges to the capacity of our electricity grid and the future planning and operation of a sustainable power system. It commits that enterprise policy will seek to ensure that any downside costs of growing energy demand are minimised by encouraging data centre investments in regions where we have infrastructure capacity to facilitate investments of this scale, and where they contribute to regional development and create high quality, sustainable jobs.
The ‘Government Statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Policy’ does not include a detailed analysis of the requirements of our electricity infrastructure or renewable energy targets, as these necessarily require a wider technical analysis, beyond one sector, and are more appropriately the work of Eirgrid, ESB Networks, their regulator the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, and electricity policy broadly under the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.
My Department and I are acutely aware of the challenges that significant electricity demand growth poses for the management of Ireland’s grid, and in particular the capacity constraints faced in the Dublin region as a result of demand growth, principally from data centres. Recent public consultations from Eirgrid (‘Shaping Our Electricity Future’) and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (‘Proposed Direction to the System Operators related to Data Centre Grid Connections’) demonstrate an appropriate, timely, and planned approach to managing these challenges on the part of the organisations tasked with delivering and managing our electricity grid. My Department continues to work pro-actively and constructively with these bodies and all stakeholders to ensure that Ireland is planning appropriately for new demand in the context of national electrification and decarbonisation ambitions, facilitating the energy needs of a growing enterprise base including our data centre sector, and ensuring that we are stimulating future energy markets and infrastructure that will deliver smart and competitively priced services for all electricity customers.