State may need to ‘curtail power grid access’ for future data centres

Ex-chief of Climate Change Advisory Council says further building should not be encouraged

Ireland may need to restrict access to the grid for future data centres, a leading member of the Climate Change Advisory Council has said.

John FitzGerald, the former chairman of the council, also dismissed as “mad” the idea that data centres could install their own on-site power generation in the shape of diesel generators.

In an interview on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Prof FitzGerald said that Ireland should “certainly not [be] encouraging” the further construction of data centres.

“There was a suggestion data centres use their own generation, that’s mad from a climate point of view. Diesel generators produce a huge amount of emissions whereas if you’re connected to the grid and use electricity from the grid, you use much less emissions. We may need to restrict access to the grid for future data centres,” he said.


Carbon tax

He also argued that carbon taxes were a necessary instrument to drive people away from dirtier fuels, but supported their redistribution to people whose incomes are particularly badly hit.

“It’s precisely why you need the carbon tax because the dirtier fuels pay more of the carbon tax. At the moment, gas prices have gone up, and gas of all the fossil fuels is the cleanest. Which is pushing people to burn dirty fuel,” he said. Prof FitzGerald also argued that an extensive retrofitting plan should be undertaken for social housing owned by the Government.

“It is the landlord’s responsibility to retrofit the property not the tenants. Instead of giving money to rich people like me to retrofit my house, they should be using that money to retrofit [social housing],” he said.

“If you do a job on a local authority estate, people will spend less on fuel, they’ll be warmer and their health will be better.”

On agriculture, he told the programme that “we’re kidding ourselves” on meeting climate targets if there weren’t measures put in place to reduce the beef herd. He also said congestion charges would be favourable for city centres.

"If you drive from Maynooth into Dublin at rush hour, you are helping cause chaos, so that's why we have to move to congestion charging. But it has to be planned, you can't just do it overnight," he said.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times