Data centre industry in denial about their climate impacts

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Campaigners challenge industry resistance to regulation

Friends of the Earth has challenged the claims of data centre developers reported in the media today, Friday 17 May. The environmental campaigning organisation said data centre demands were “undermining Ireland’s electricity security and putting our climate commitments at risk.”

The Irish Times reported data centre industry group, Digital Infrastructure Ireland (DII), claiming that “continued uncertainty is...driving investment to other European markets..”. DII refers to investments by Microsoft and Google in other European countries and comments that “other EU member states have facilitated the sector while facing similar [climate] challenges”. [1]

Reacting, Friends of the Earth’s Head of Policy, Jerry Mac Evilly, said:

“DII’s self-serving spin, focusing on supposed impacts to Ireland’s FDI prospects, ignores both the damage to Ireland’s reputation from data centres putting our climate commitments at risks through increasing reliance on fossil gas and also the exceptional level of data centre development already planned here. Ireland is an outlier in Europe with 18% of our electricity consumed by data centres in 2022, projected to rise to 30% by 2030, compared to an EU average of less than 3% [2]. This puts a range of pressures on the electricity systems, water resources while having limited local economic benefits. 

“Data centre promoters are also out of step with public opinion. Recent polling by Ireland Thinks found that an absolute majority of people support “an indefinite pause on connecting new data centres to the electricity and gas grids”, by 51% to 31%.” [3]

UCC energy experts have also published detailed research which shows huge growth in data centre electricity demand pose major threats to meeting Ireland’s legally binding climate targets. They also note that if our future renewables are mainly directed at data centre growth, rather than replacing current fossil fuels, polluting emissions remain high and risk failing their decarbonisation commitments. At the current time, given pressures on our electricity network, many data centres are also seeking connection to the gas network to run their own onsite gas generator resulting in lock-in to even higher levels of polluting fossil gas. [4]

UCC also note that the electricity sector is projected to overshoot its sectoral emissions ceiling this decade by 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Growth in electricity demand from data centres could cause seven million tonnes of additional emissions in that time frame, according to Dr Paul Deane, a substantial share of this overshoot. Moreover, this is just from the growth in electricity demand from data centres that already have a connection agreement: many more are seeking connections. [5]

Jerry Mac Evilly continued:

“The runaway development of data centres is undermining Ireland’s electricity security and putting climate commitments at risk. The reality is that a there are planetary boundaries, environmental pressures and physical limits – all of this points to the need for a moratorium and significantly stronger regulatory regime.

“Data centre demands for light-tough regulation also raise fundamental questions about who or what our energy transition is for. Is it to take climate action and ensure a better environment for Irish communities or has it simply become one more tool in an FDI toolbox? The Government risks undermining support for new renewable energy projects and for climate action more broadly.”


1. See

2. See

3. See The Ireland Thinks report -

4. See

5. See