Thursday 22 February 2018

Data centres will eat up large part of energy supply in future, says White

A large portion of Dublin’s electricity demand in the future will be taken up by data centres
A large portion of Dublin’s electricity demand in the future will be taken up by data centres

Paul Melia in Paris

A large portion of Dublin's electricity demand in the future will be taken up by data centres, Energy Minister Alex White has said.

Speaking at the UN climate summit, Mr White said a number of companies are in discussions about opening centres in Ireland due to our temperate climate and availability of renewable energy.

And he said that a White Paper on Energy, due to be published next week, will be the first time that a roadmap will be in place to phase out usage of fossil fuels over time.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, he also said it will discuss the issue of community ownership of renewable energy projects including wind farms, because a "new approach" is needed.

Mr White was at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) where the focus was on energy.

His comments come as new research published in 'Nature Climate Change' suggests that global carbon emissions from industry and from burning fossil fuels to produce energy are levelling off, and may fall this year.

Researchers at the UK's University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project found that emissions could fall by 0.6pc in 2015, following a decade of increasing by 2.4pc a year.

The drop is attributed to a reduction in coal consumption in China due to lower economic growth and a move towards renewables, coupled with growing concerns about air pollution.

But Martin Kaiser, head of international climate politics at Greenpeace, said the reduction came as "no surprise" due to the continued roll-out of renewable energy, and cautioned that two years of stable emissions did not make a trend.

Tech companies are increasingly demanding that enormous quantities of energy needed to run data centres, which store documents, video and other communications, are sourced from wind and other renewables.

Microsoft, Amazon and Google already have facilities here, while Apple is planning another at Athenry, Co Galway.

Mr White said Google had informed him in Paris that it remained "very interested" in Ireland.

"I think it's important Ireland conveys the message we're progressive on the energy side," the minister said. "They (Google) are saying they continue to be very interested in Ireland, and committed to renewable energy.

"There are data centre plans from a number of companies, and a considerable portion of Dublin's energy demand will come from data centres."

He said the Government's white paper will set out the roadmap to decarbonising the economy, and will reference community participation in renewable energy projects.

He said the paper will also reference the roll-out of electric vehicles, and will cover the period to 2030.

"This is the first time we're grappling with an ultimate phase out of fossil fuels," he said. "It's not just electricity, but heat and transport."

He added that wind farms will require financial support for "some period" of time, but will eventually have to operate without a subsidy.

Separately, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged almost 200 nations to strike a legally-binding deal to combat climate change, saying there was "rising support for a strong, universal agreement".

"We are on the verge of one of the most important peace agreements of our times, making peace with our planet," he said.

Irish Independent

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