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Ireland welcomes data centres, no moratorium coming

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There will be no moratorium on the construction of new data centres despite their drain on the energy grid, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

However, Mr Martin said tech companies will be required to show proof they can generate their own energy, if necessary, when they apply to build data centres.

The Taoiseach’s intervention comes amid the ongoing debate around the introduction of strict new carbon emissions targets and EU plans to limit natural gas use by member states.

Data centres are the biggest drivers of demand for electricity on the national grid and there have long been calls for a moratorium on their construction at a time when the Government has been warned of potential nationwide blackouts.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) introduced restrictions to access to the national grid due to fears of blackouts because of the strain data centres put on electricity.

Martin said data centers could not be stopped: “There can’t be a moratorium on them. In a digitalized world data centers are now part of the package.”

Part of the issue is that data centres are an essential part of larger foreign investment deals he said, according to the Irish Mirror: “When particular companies invest in Ireland and have a big presence in Ireland they’re saying it’s not one or the other. You can’t say you want all of our investment but by the way, we don’t want you doing anything with a data center.”

Ireland would have to “weigh that up,” he said: “We can’t say no to all data centers because that potentially would be saying no to a lot of investment on the technology front both on the digital and the bigger companies.”

Adding to this, Martin repeated the CRU’s demand that tech companies should be able to generate their own energy in periods of need, and warned that there “would not be the same number of data centers built.”

A new data center policy is due to be announced by Martin’s colleague, the Tànaiste (deputy prime minister) Leo Varadkar in the next few weeks.