Ireland’s data centers are only currently using a quarter of the energy allotted to them by the country’s grid operator, EirGrid.
EirGrid has enforced a de facto moratorium on new data center grid connections in the Dublin area, saying the grid is unable to accommodate facilities and risking blackouts. Digital Realty's Interxion has told local press it has paused plans for a $300 million expansion in the area as a result of the restrictions put in place; at least 30 other projects have reportedly also been halted as a result.
However, a new report suggests more than three-quarters of the energy allocated to data centers by EirGrid is sitting unused, with some in the industry calling the grid operator’s scapegoating of data centers ‘disingenuous’ in the face of so much excess capacity available.
DCK has compared data from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and statements from EirGrid around data center power demand and allotted capacity with the actual metered electricity consumption of data centers, published last month by the Irish Central Statistics Office. The report suggests as much as three-quarters of the energy ring-fenced for data centers by EirGrid sat unused last year.
As previously reported by DCD, many within Ireland's data center industry blame the energy situation in the country on EirGrid for its lack of investment in the grid, and the government for delaying the latest round of renewable energy project auctions, especially in the Dublin area.
Maurice Mortell, Ireland country manager and EU sustainability chief at global data center operator Equinix, said it was true that data centers used only about 25 percent of the grid capacity that Ireland's two state-owned grid operators reserve for them.
"[EirGrid's] initial story was inaccurate from the start, and unfortunately it stayed that way,” he said. Ireland's power problem was caused not by data centers but "a lack of investment in its grid infrastructure, particularly around Dublin, and lagging investment in renewable energy," said Mortell.
"EirGrid is being a bit disingenuous. It's trying to deflect the blame on somebody else," said John Booth, chair of the British Standards Institute committee on data center design. "The plain fact is there's not enough infrastructure to support projected reserve power in place places where they want to build data centers. That's the problem ultimately. Ireland doesn't generate enough power to cover its existing demand."
Adrian Bolton, head of distributed energy at renewables supplier SSE, said he believed EirGrid had over-estimated data center demand and under-estimated the grid's supply capacity, and that bolstered its case for sanctions against political opposition from other government departments and agencies. Ireland was short of power because EirGrid had not fulfilled its commitments to build enough generating capacity, he said.
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