Irish data centre power consumption rose 144pc since 2015, CSO reports

20 Jan 2022

Image: © Sashkin/Stock.adobe.com

Amid concerns about rising power demand, CSO figures found that data centres’ electricity consumption has grown significantly in recent years.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has released figures on the electricity consumption of Ireland’s data centres for the first time, showing an increased strain on the country’s power grid.

The new figures released today (20 January) show electricity consumption by data centres increased by 144pc between 2015 and 2020. Data centre power usage rose 193pc between the first three months of 2015 and the last three months of 2020.

Future Human

The figures also show the percentage of electricity consumed by data centres rose from 5pc in 2015 to 11pc in 2020. Ireland’s total metered electricity consumption rose by 10pc or 2,456 GWh in that same period.

Statistician in the CSO’s environment and climate division, Niamh Shanahan, said these figures show “a steady increase from quarter to quarter”.

“The increase in consumption was driven by a combination of existing data centres using more electricity and new data centres being added to the grid,” she added.

The CSO used various approaches to identify data centres for these figures, but added that there is no agreed definition of a data centre. Reports produced by other organisations, the CSO Business Register and internet searches were used in the process.

Growing energy concerns

Data centres have been a contentious topic in Ireland in recent months, due to their environmental impact and the toll they may take on the country’s energy supply.

Last September, grid operator EirGrid predicted “electricity supply challenges” for Ireland in the coming years in part due to the growth of demand driven by large energy users. It added that data centres could account for a quarter of the country’s electricity usage by 2030.

To ensure data centres do not put pressure on Ireland’s grid in a way that would see demand outstrip supply, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities issued new directions on connection applications from data centres for electricity grid operators in November.

These include assessing facilities based on their location – something that is already on EirGrid’s radar – as well as the ability to generate their own power and to power the grid in times of peak demand.

Earlier this month, Eirgrid confirmed that it will not connect new data centres in Dublin for the foreseeable future, saying that the area is already constrained and data centre applications will only be considered for other parts of the country on a case-by-case basis.

But while the energy impact of data centres is under the spotlight, the need for these facilities to manage ever-growing levels of data is not going away.

With that in mind, many companies are hoping to make these facilities more sustainable. Dominic Ward, CEO of data centre operator Verne Global, told SiliconRepublic.com last month that sustainability is going to be the one overriding trend that will remain “front and centre for the foreseeable future” within the industry.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com