Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
141. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he is taking to implement the Government statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42229/20]
In June 2018, my Department published the ‘Government Statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Policy’. It sets out the strategic importance of data centres to Ireland’s enterprise policy and to attracting foreign investment in the ICT sector. The Statement followed an agreement of the Government, in October 2017, to create a strategic policy framework to support the continued development of data centres in Ireland, while conscious of the constraints of our electricity system and our national ambition to move to very high levels of renewable electricity generation.
Work has been undertaken by IDA Ireland to identify suitable sites in the regions for developing data centres, having regard to the suitability of grid capacity. The Government is seeking to ensure that the costs of growing energy demand are minimised. We do this by encouraging data centre investments in regions where we have infrastructure capacity to facilitate investments of this scale and also where they contribute to regional development. However, it is important to note that IDA Ireland cannot determine the eventual locations chosen by data centres.
Other Departments and agencies have also implemented aspects of the ‘Government Statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Policy’. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, under the previous Government, amended planning legislation to include data centres above a minimum threshold within the classes of ‘Strategic Infrastructure Development’ which streamlines the development consent process and I anticipate that this provision will be commenced in the near future.
In addition, the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications recently announced the results of the first auction held under the Renewable Energy Support Scheme, a considerable step forward in supplying renewable electricity to all customers.
Eirgrid engages in detail with data centre operators on an ongoing basis with regard to their grid connection process. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is mandated to ensure that electricity grid costs are recovered fairly from all electricity customers – including large energy users such as data centres.
Further, under the Climate Action Plan 2019, my Department is engaging in detail with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) on research to inform policy measures that would encourage investment by large energy users, including data centres, in renewable electricity generation using Corporate Power Purchase Agreements. I expect that SEAI will publish this research in the coming weeks. We have seen recently a number of Corporate Power Purchase Agreements, purchased by data centre operators, in the Irish market and I hope we will see more. When data centre operators purchase electricity directly from renewable generators it contributes towards the State's objective to decarbonise our electricity system without any subsidy from electricity customers.