Irish data centres to provide flexibility – proposal

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Ireland’s Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has proposed that data centres should provide grid integration solutions.

The proposal comes as data centres in Ireland continue to grow in number with the prospect of a threat to the country’s continued security of supply.

Data from the Irish transmission system operator EirGrid indicates that over the past four years, annual increases in demand from data centres alone has been around 600GWh – equivalent to the addition of 140,000 households to the power system each year – while demand growth in other sectors has been largely flat.

EirGrid also has estimated that data centre demand will be a key driver for electricity demand in Ireland for the foreseeable future, with up to 2,000MW of requests received, additional to the over 1,800MW already in place.

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To avoid a future situation of demand outstripping supply with resultant load shedding and rolling blackouts, the Commission is proposing that data centres need to be flexible and to demonstrate this by providing solutions to enable their further grid integration.

Given that there are mechanisms that data centres can employ to contribute to their overall flexibility, such an approach is considered preferable to a moratorium on new or modified data centre connections.

Specifically, the Commission has proposed that EirGrid and the distribution system operator ESB Networks prioritise the processing of data centre applications on several criteria including their location in a constrained or unconstrained region of the system, their ability to bring on site dispatchable generation and/or storage matching or exceeding their demand and their ability to provide flexibility when requested to do so.

The Irish government targeted data centre presence back in 2018, reclassifying them as ‘strategic infrastructure development’ in its ambition to be a digital economy hot-spot in Europe

EirGrid has developed a bespoke policy offer for data centres to connect to the transmission system. The TSO has estimated they could account for one-quarter to one-third of all demand by 2030.

The Commission is currently reviewing input on its proposals, with the outcome likely to be of interest to other jurisdictions facing the growth of data centres and their near kin Bitcoin mining operations.