Ireland’s state-owned electric power transmission operator EirGrid has said it will no longer accept applications for new data centers in Dublin.
Irish press including RTE and the Business Post are reporting that EirGrid has confirmed that it will not connect new data centers in Dublin for ‘the foreseeable future’ and possibly until 2028. Data center applications already in the pipeline will be progressed.
It said the greater Dublin area is constrained and any new data center applications will only be considered for other parts of the country on a ‘case-by-case basis’.
New connections to the grid will be evaluated using the assessment criteria set out by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and available capacity.
Data centers in Ireland have come under close scrutiny in recent months as politicians and environmental groups question their energy demand with the country’s environmental goals. RTE noted that EirGrid has issued seven amber alerts in a recent 12-month period warning of issues with energy supply.
Environmentalists and political parties including the Social Democrats and People Before Profit have called for a moratorium on future data center projects, because the state-owned utility EirGrid has warned that they already use more than 10 percent of the country's electricity supply, and this could grow to 30 percent by 2030, potentially causing "rolling blackouts" and making it impossible for the country to meet its targets to decarbonize its grid so that 80 percent of the nation's electricity must come from renewable sources by 2030.
In November 2021 Ireland's electricity regulator the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) noted it wouldn’t enforce a national moratorium on new data centers but said there may be limits on where data centers can be built, and they may be asked to provide on-site dispatchable energy storage or generation equivalent to their demand.
The BP reported on the Dublin moratorium shortly before Christmas, before reporting EirGrid had performed a partial U-Turn to assess Dublin applications on a ‘case-by-case basis.’It seems the transmission operator has since returned to a de facto moratorium in the Irish capital.
In a joint submission to EirGrid, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA) said it remains their view that data centers bring substantial capital investment and new export service and sub supply capabilities. The IDA recently claimed that data centers were being “scapegoated” for an already existing energy crisis.
Speaking to Dublin Live, Clondalkin Councillor Francis Timmons welcomed the news: "I am glad to hear the news, it's time the genuine concerns of people are listened to and data centers are putting a potentially unsustainable strain on the nation's electricity grid so the news of no new applications to 2028 is good,” he said. "This is a moratorium on data centers for a decade. However, there is still a lot of data centers built, planned or in the process and this is bad news for the average person relying on electricity for their day-to-day needs."
DCD has reached out to EirGrid for comment. A spokesperson provided the following statement:
The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) announced its decision regarding the connection of data centers on November 23rd. This followed a comprehensive public consultation (CRU/21/060). The decision provides criteria to EirGrid and ESB on how to assess new applications for a connection to their respective transmission and distribution networks “to ensure security of supply and combat constraint issues”.
One of the criteria is whether the data center applicant is located within “a constrained or unconstrained region of the electricity system”. The greater Dublin area is a constrained area and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
EirGrid is clear about the need to develop capacity and infrastructure in Dublin to facilitate social and economic growth, including large energy users.
EirGrid will consider applications for connection to the grid on a case-by-case basis in line with the assessment criteria as set out by CRU and available capacity.
Over the coming weeks EirGrid will reach out to each applicant to discuss what this means for their proposed data center connections.