Ecosocialist activist group People Before Profit has staged a protest at the Data Centres Ireland event in Dublin today, calling for a halt to data center building in Ireland.
The group chanted and held banners outside the annual data center show in the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) venue in Ballsbridge, Dublin, arguing that with data centers already using 12 percent of the country's electricity, any increase in the sector will use an unfair proportion of renewable electricity, making Ireland's climate goals unobtainable.
Meanwhile, a new Amazon proposal to build two new data centers at the Clonshaugh Business and Technology Park in north Dublin is facing opposition.
A halt on data centers?
"We have doublethink from the Government today," said a protester in a video of the protest, posted by People Before Profit. "The doublethink is that we can transition away from fossil fuels, while massively increasing demand for energy. Reducing demand is an obvious part of this shift."
Data centers will be "guzzling all the renewable energy, and National utility EirGrid will have to keep gas generators going, "solely for data centers," according to the protest.
"These are steps in the wrong direction. If we reach 2030 and we've phased out fossil fuels, and we're living in a just and carbon-negative society, then let them build all the data that they want. But till then, stop putting profits ahead of our survival. There's no data on a dead planet."
Inside the event, which is open today and tomorrow, delegates have been hearing talks on decarbonizing the grid and delivering climate neutral data, which protesters dismissed as "greenwash."
The Irish Government is considering placing restrictions on data center building in Ireland, following a report from EirGrid which said data centers currently use 12 percent of electricity in Ireland, and this could grow to between 21 and 30 percent by 2030. The Irish Social Democrat party called for a moratorium on new data center developments in the country in September over worries about energy demands and sustainability.
Meanwhile, objections have been raised to Amazon's proposal lodged this month, for two further data centers on the Clonshaugh Business Park, following an application in February to build two more data centers on the site.
The Irish environmental and social justice organization NGO Gluaiseacht said: “No sooner is that one granted than they have put in for another data center complex in the same location of the same size. This is project splitting that is being used to hide the true size and energy-guzzling status of Amazon’s operations in Ireland,” according to a report in TechRegister.
Gluaiseacht's Eoin Ó Leidhin said: “Projects with this level of proposed new energy and water usage should only be ever considered in the most dire of needs. A data center simply does not meet this criterion, especially when there has been no limits set on how much data is reasonable to store and there are no incentives for individuals and organizations to minimize their data usage in the face of ever increasing demands on energy.”
Planning consultant John Spain said: “The proposed development represents a significant investment that will create additional direct, indirect and induced economic and employment benefits for the area,” according to TechRegister.
Garry Connelly, founder of Host in Ireland, who is taking part in the conference program, told DCD that there were "some minor protests outside earlier, and some disruption when some protestors set off a fire alarm."
Responding to the protesters' comments, he said that the Irish government would shortly announce a plan, and data centers would have fall in with it: "Next week sees the publication of the CRU's connection recommendations for data centers," he said, referring to the Irish utility regulator. "With Eirgrid's Shaping our Electrical Future now published along with the national climate action plan, the three key documents establishing Ireland's roadmap to 80 percent annualized renewable energy on the grid will be published, and every asset class and sector, including DC's need to get behind the plan thoroughly."