Data centres are "strategic infrastructure", the government has decided.
The Business Post reports that the planning process for the centres is set to be streamlined. In future, planning applications for the centres will be sent directly to An Bord Pleanála, cutting out local authorities from the process.
In May 2021 data centres used 11% of Ireland’s electricity. However, the figure is forecast to rise sharply and a medium case scenario estimates that by 2028 it will grow to 29%.
EirGrid has said Ireland’s power system is under pressure because of "unprecedented growth" and some politicians have pointed the finger of blame at data centres.
Last week Wicklow TD Jennifer Whitmore told Newstalk: "At the moment, the Government really has no understanding of the impacts that the data centres, their energy use, their water use, are really having on the country. And they’re not managing it properly.
“So the Social Democrats are calling for a moratorium on data centres. Just to give the Government time to actually conduct a risk analysis of what it means for our country. How many data centres are too many?”
However, the party’s motion in the Dáil was voted down after Energy Minister Eamon Ryan said the government is planning for the increased demand in electricity from the data centres.
Independent TD Michael McNamara told Newstalk that data centres are being unfairly scapegoated:
“Data seems to have become very much the bogeyman. I mean the reality is that most of the power needs that have been generated in the country are being generated to meet the consumption needs of every single person living in Ireland.
“You know, we want to have Facebook, Google and all the tech multinationals headquartered in Ireland, we want to collect their corporate tax and yet we don’t want any data centres in Ireland.”
However, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy described the plan as "crazy" given the circumstances:
"When we have an energy crisis, when we're facing significant price rises, when we're facing into potential blackouts this winter and we know that a substantial reason for that is the fact that at the moment 11% of our electricity goes on data centres and that's going to rise to 30% by 2030 and then even more beyond that."
Main image: A data silo with magnetic tapes is pictured at the German Climate Computing Centre (DKRZ) in Hamburg, Germany. Picture by: Sven Hoppe/PA