Ireland has one of Europe’s largest clusters of data centres as a stable energy grid, temperate climate and significant skills base makes Ireland an attractive country for this form of investment. Data centres are an increasingly important part of the digital and communications sectors, and are core infrastructure in the remote working and digital services economy. The 2018 Government Statement on Data Centres sets out the strategic importance of data centres to Ireland’s overarching enterprise policy and their role in attracting employment and investment to Ireland within the technology sector.
Data centres are also considerable energy demand loads on our electricity grid. Ireland has an ambitious target for decarbonising our electricity supply, with the Climate Action Plan 2019 setting a target of 70% renewable electricity by 2030. The Department for Climate Action is progressing the Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS) and a series of capacity auctions designed to help us reach that target.
As significant electricity purchasers, data centres in Ireland can help drive the transition to renewable electricity, ensuring that the digital services they provide for society are delivered in an efficient and environmentally sustainable way. Indeed, many of the large technology multinationals with data centres in Ireland have made commitments to achieve 100% renewable energy.
Under the 2019 Climate Action Plan and the Government Statement, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland are leading a working group to encourage investment in renewable electricity generation using Corporate Power Purchase Agreements (CPPA). The use of these contracts, which facilitate large energy users such as data centres to procure renewable energy directly from generators, has already begun in Ireland. The Working Group is examining what policy actions can be taken to facilitate this market and my Department is participating on this group, with engagement from the enterprise agencies. Through direct procurement of additional renewable electricity, large energy users would be contributing to meeting Ireland’s renewable electricity target.