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Internet giants in favor as Ireland tightens data center rules

Emergency restrictions on investment in data centres have become government policy in Ireland, creating some respite after poor planning left its grid too weak to support its fastest growing industry.

Casually announcing the policy During a state visit to Japan in July, Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin, in comments to state media, insisted that his temporary squeeze on data center construction was not a good idea. The “pause” of the industry that fueled its decade-long export boom: Ireland remains open to business.

Yet now, eight years since Ireland’s grid regulator imposed such tight controls Months later, it imposed an effective ban on new projects in Dublin, Ireland’s capital, which has one of the largest industries in Europe, which Prime Minister Martin’s government has endorsed in a formal government policy.

Landmark grid regulations in November 2021 prohibit the construction of any data centres except those that can generate all their own energy on-site, gr not only supplying electricity in Ireland, but leading Cloud computing companies in their industry provide breathing space while they perfect the breakthrough technology they have been developing to reduce the need for electricity.

Most relevant is Ireland, these innovations include giant batteries that draw power from the grid when there is a lot of wind and excess wind, and feed the same energy back when renewables are insufficient, otherwise The grid will be forced to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Taoiseach Martin said in Tokyo that Hitachi, the Japanese energy group that develops battery-powered systems for the s, lobbied him to lift the construction ban because its business depends on Ireland’s continued unabated data boom.

Hitachi, which is ready to deploy battery-powered systems, said in a public consultation last year on Ireland’s construction crunch that the government should pave the way.

Battery system

Ireland’s largest data center operator Microsoft announced a battery system developed in partnership with U.S.-Irish power group Eaton, heralding the Prime Minister’s words. It also partnered with Ireland’s state-owned grid operator EirGrid, which last year lobbied to suspend operations, claiming that unless Ireland’s grid regulator has helped it find some way to curb demand, or data centers will run out of capacity on the grid.

EirGrid’s botched investment in Ireland’s electricity grid sparked a power crisis last year, leading to a warning about electricity consumption. This and other hurdles left Ireland’s grid with less than 2,000 megawatts of generating capacity—more than is used by Ireland’s entire data center industry and nearly half of the country’s peak electricity demand.

The operator, meanwhile, has been nurturing various international engineering companies in pioneering efforts to create batteries to store renewable energy and help power data centers. Eaton and its partner, Italian power management company Enel X, are among them.

However, Ireland’s booming data industry has sparked competition for scarce land and contracts to keep limited capacity on the grid, with internet giants needing to build more industrial, “Hyperscale” data centers and meet the growing demand for data services.

“Hyperscalers don’t like that – David McAuley, founder of research firm Bitpower, told Computer Weekly. They created an artificial power crisis by winning grid capacity contracts, which they hinted they wanted Sublease to cloud companies.

Speculators hold grid capacity they are not using, and other companies that want to actually use that capacity are now being told they cannot own it. They tell Ireland’s grid regulator The suspended consultation convened by the Utilities Regulatory Commission (CRU) last year, there is no data center crisis. The crisis is EirGrid’s undersupply and its mismanagement of the electricity market, they said.

Usage Implications

The disclosure that data centers use only 25% of their reserved capacity on the grid states Ireland’s problem. Most of the electricity that’s been declared a severe shortage is just put on hold.

Grid capacity is underutilized, McAuley said, because the company that owns it often has no control over whether customers rent computing power , also have no control over how computing power is rented. They actually use a lot when they do.

According to Bitpower, three-quarters of Ireland’s capacity is held by cloud computing teams. Retail and wholesale company Hold the rest. Garrett McClean, executive director of real estate firm CBRE, said, but in Ireland they typically sell their capacity to cloud computing teams anyway.

Regulatory tightening to implement CRU this year, EirGrid tearing up about 30 application developers to power data centers they hope to build within the next decade. It declined to identify them.

But they include “hyperscale people, carpet bags , speculators, property investors and anyone with a little bit of a land and power connection,” trade association chairman Garry Connolly told The Computer after EirGrid leaked details of the cancellation to Irish media Weekly. For grid capacity, according to EirGrid.

Utilizing reserved capacity

Cloud company ignored comment requests, but Facebook parent Meta used nearly 70% of capacity was reserved last year at its hyperscale data centre in Ireland, after it recently disclosed that its hyperscale becomes apparent after modeling the power consumption of the data center. However, it took the company five years to build out the data center to take advantage of its reserved capacity. In 2018, it used just 21 percent of its contracted electricity, according to Computer Weekly calculations. In 2017, it used 0.1%, and its utilization has grown substantially despite increasing year-over-year.

Cloud companies tell CRU it should reform Ireland’s electricity market to punish companies that have capacity but don’t use it quickly. EirGrid and CRU claim that requests for grid capacity have become rampant.

However, it is difficult to follow Ireland’s accusations due to insufficient evidence from industry or regulators and operators.

Last year, CRU parodied EirGrid’s criticism of growth, claiming that they use an unreasonable amount of energy relative to the economic benefits it brings, and that they use a disproportionate amount of energy compared to other industries , thus justifying its squeeze on growth.

According to official figures released by Eurostat, the industry was an integral part of its data centres and was the engine that shut down the Irish economy at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the main reason for predicting that it will be the fastest growing economy in the world in the coming years.

EirGrid describes industry growth as a problem, although it has been predicting such growth since at least 2018, not until 2020 No problem at all.

Data centres should not be scrutinised or scapegoated alone, internet giant Taoiseach Martin, as well as the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE), have emphasised, apparently referring to assertions by CRU and EirGrid, and the subsequent Raging anger in the press and in parliament.

The data center has kept the country running digitally during the coronavirus lockdown and is now helping other economies transition from the physical processes fueled by fossil fuels of the past to more energy-efficient digital ways such as remote Meetings, Digital Public Services and Computers – Enhanced Business Processes.

However, EirGrid and CRU’s assertion presupposes selective analysis, singles out data centres and withholds information about power reserves in Ireland’s large manufacturing sector.

Nonetheless, Ireland has government policy that outside of Dublin, there is no more than about three data centres remaining capacity totalling about 300 MW. Ireland will give priority to existing operators. “We have to avoid speculative data centers — those that are built and then looking for customers. That’s something we don’t approve of,” Martin said in Japan.

Ireland will simultaneously pursue its plans to build offshore wind turbines to supplement its insufficient fossil fuel-based electricity supply and achieve 80% of its supply from renewables by 2030 Target.

Catching up on demand

Martin, speaking to reporters again in Singapore two weeks ago, described Ireland’s non-suspended measures as The respite the Irish wind industry is getting in “two or three years” comes as demand for data centres increases, according to a transcript of a press conference released by his office to reporters. their contribution to the Irish economy, building industrial-scale batteries to feed into the grid, for systems by which they propose to move their computer processing loads around their global infrastructure to where renewable energy is most abundant at any given time, and They have made a public commitment to becoming zero greenhouse gas emitters.

Ireland’s policy even makes CRU’s non-suspension stricter. Regulators say new data centers must generate their own electricity on-site, and DETE says fossil-fuel generators are not allowed. If developers don’t just build next to renewable energy farms, battery storage is the only option.

Hyperscalers protest that sanctions will force data centres to build fossil fuel generators, while Industrial Development Ireland insists wind power expansion will keep pace with demand without any intervention.

Martin says favoured companies will now take “great comfort” from Ireland’s assurances that it will have the wind power they seek when the current crisis is over in five years’ time . time.



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