Protest to highlight the risk data centres pose to our energy this winter

Uplift members highlight the risk data centres pose to our energy this winter

by Rachel Cunningham
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Outside the Digital Ireland Conference in Dublin Castle, Uplift members held a huge banner reading “Data Centres = Blackouts” to highlight the damage that the power-hungry facilities have on our energy security.

The conference was attended by tech corporation leaders and senior government officials, including Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Táinaiste Leo Varadkar.

With warnings of blackouts across Ireland this winter, the group are calling on the government to press pause on new data centre developments and regulate the industry properly to ensure we can keep the lights on and meet our climate targets.

Uplift campaigner Brian Cuthbert said “there is a real risk of blackouts for people across Ireland this winter. But this government is hell-bent on attracting more and more huge, energy-guzzling data centres.”

He continued, “they use as much energy as small cities. Based on our analysis we calculate that just one data centre is equivalent to keeping the lights on for 18,500 homes. As tech leaders and senior politicians cosy up to each other inside Dublin Castle we want to call them out and remind everyone that these super wealthy corporations are wasting all of our energy and this government is helping them do it.”

Climate activist Angela Deegan added “the whole world is moving towards renewable energy. Meanwhile the Irish government is building new fossil fuel gas plants just so that they can power these massive tech companies and their data centres.” 

She continued “we need to cop on and stop allowing new data centres to be built and use up all of our energy. If the lights go out this winter, we’ll know who to blame”.

In June 2022, a majority of councillors in South Dublin voted in favour of an amendment to bring in a moratorium on new data centres in South Dublin County for the duration of the Development Plan 2022-28. 

A draft direction to remove the amendment was issued by the minister in late July, which was put out to public consultation. A final direction is expected to be issued by Minister Burke imminently. 

The amendment was proposed by People Before Profit councillor, Madeleine Johansson, who commented: “This is the final stage of the plan and if the ban is overturned it means that new data centres could get planning permission in the area, despite South Dublin already having almost half of all the data centres in the country.” 

There were 34 data centres in operation in South Dublin as of May 2021. Concerns have been raised about the capacity of the electricity grid to cope with the pressure from the centres on the grid, in addition to concerns around the centres impeding climate change targets. 

“We need to stop facilitating large corporations ahead of our local communities,” Councillor Johnson said.

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