Irish data centres consumed more electricity than rural dwellings in 2021

3 May 2022

Image: © kwarkot/Stock.adobe.com

CSO figures show that data centres consumed 14pc of Ireland’s electricity last year, while rural residential dwellings consumed 12pc.

Irish data centres consumed more electricity than rural dwellings last year as their mark on the grid continues to rise, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The figures released today (3 May) show electricity consumption by data centres increased by 32pc between 2020 and 2021. Data centre power usage rose 265pc between the first three months of 2015 and the last three months of 2021.

Future Human

The figures also show the percentage of Ireland’s electricity consumed by data centres rose from 11pc in 2020 to 14pc in 2021. This percentage has been accelerating in recent years, as it was only 5pc in 2015.

Meanwhile, the CSO said that rural dwellings consumed 12pc of Ireland’s metered electricity last year, while urban dwellings consumed 21pc.

The figures show Ireland’s total metered electricity consumption increased by 16pc or 3,906 GWh between 2015 and 2021. The amount of electricity consumed by data centres last year was 3,993 GWh, an increase of 2,757 GWh compared to 2015.

Niamh Shanahan, statistician in the CSO’s environment and climate division, 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.

Growing energy concerns

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

The CSO released figures on their electricity consumption for the first time in January, showing the increased strain they have put on the country’s power grid in recent years.

Last year, 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 last November on connection applications from data centres for electricity grid operators.

These include assessing facilities based on their location as well as the ability to generate their own power and to power the grid in times of peak demand.

In January, 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.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com