The Government may clamp down on data centre development and boost gas-fired electricity generation to cut energy industry greenhouse gas emissions, the latest version of its Climate Action Plan says.
Rising demand for electricity could force the State to allow the coal-burning Moneypoint power plant to continue operations beyond its scheduled closure date in 2025.
Its latest Climate Action Plan states that the Government will review its policies on data centre growth to keep it in line with emissions and renewable energy targets.
“The forecast growth of data centres clearly represents a challenge to Ireland’s emissions targets,” says the plan.
National grid operator, State company Eirgrid, has agreed to connect data centres likely to need up to 1,800 mega watts (MW)of electricity to a system where peak demand is around 5,000MW.
Eirgrid has applications from data centres for a further 2,000MW. Legislation obliges the company to connect these businesses.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities has been consulting with interested parties on future options for data centre connection since June.
The Climate Action Plan states that electricity use in the Republic emitted the equivalent of 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018.
Existing policies should cut this to between 4 million and 5 million tonnes by 2030.
However, electricity demand is going to grow by up to 50 per cent as it is increasingly used to power transport and heating to cut business and industrial emissions by 6 million tonnes over the next nine years.
Overall, emissions will have to fall to the equivalent of around 2.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030, demanding a “significant step up in ambition” the plan says.
It also states that the Republic will have to build enough extra gas-fired generators to produce 2,000MW of electricity – equal to five average-sized plants – by 2030 to guarantee that energy supplies are secure.
Wind and solar power cannot deliver electricity consistently as they depend on the weather, so gas is needed to ensure that the system can always meet demand.
The document concedes that the Republic will need 5,000MW of “conventional generation” – that is gas and other fuels – in 2030, of which 2,000MW will have to be built between now and then.
The Government’s target is that 80 per cent of all electricity used in the Republic must come from renewable generation by 2030. This will involve spending “tens of billions of euro” on power plants and infrastructure, the plan notes.
It will prepare a new offshore renewable energy development plan that will assess areas suitable for generating electricity off the Republic’s coast.
The Maritime Area Planning Bill, which the Oireachtas will begin debating shortly, will streamline the permit process for offshore projects and ensure they are consistent with policy.
Meanwhile, the State will continue to hold auctions under the Renewable Energy Support Scheme, meant to boost investment in green electricity by guaranteeing prices to developers.