The Government, on Thursday June 7th, published a policy statement outlining Ireland’s commitment to taking a plan-led approach to the development of data centres. The Statement was prepared by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in conjunction with other relevant government departments, following a Government agreement last October to strengthen the Strategic Policy Framework around the development of data centres in Ireland.
The Framework has been pursued as part of objectives for wider economic growth and regional development. The other strands of this approach include the finalisation of the Renewable Electricity Policy and Development Framework, the amendment of the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act to include data centres and measures to streamline judicial review of strategic infrastructure projects.
This Policy Statement aims to:
· drive Ireland’s ambition in the digital economy as a location of choice for investment and a seed-bed for technology entrepreneurship across a range of sectors and activities;
· contribute to regional development, deliver associated economic activities and support the creation of high quality, sustainable jobs;
· align enterprise electricity demand with generation capacity and transmission planning;
· ensure that potential downside costs are minimised and that economic impact is optimised.
Launching the Statement, Heather Humphreys, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, said that data centres are key enablers for the digital economy:
“The demand for data centres is there and this Policy Statement is about having a coherent strategic plan in place to deal with that demand. This is a joined-up, cross-Government approach on their development in Ireland.
The Minister continued:
“We all know that data centres present challenges given that they’re very energy intensive, however, they are also critically important to ensuring that Ireland continues to be a leader in the digital economy. This is about striking a balance between the challenges and opportunities.
“While the number of people directly employed in data centres is relatively small, the fact is there are over 100,000 employed in ICT companies here. The reality is many of those companies need data centres to facilitate their activities and continued growth”.
Turning to the Government’s focus on taking a strategic approach to the issue, the Minister concluded:
“We need to be strategic about this – if companies do want to set up data centres in Ireland, we need to be selective and target investments that deliver real economic benefits. For example, we know that Dublin is under the most pressure in terms of energy capacity. That’s why we need to look at putting data centres in regional locations which might be under less pressure.”
The Government Statement also highlights that IDA Ireland will increase its emphasis on promoting a range of regional options for data centre investment. The IDA has recently identified specific sites in regions throughout Ireland that are potentially suitable for accommodating the sustainable development of large scale data centre projects in terms of proximity to necessary energy and other appropriate infrastructures. This is building on the work that IDA Ireland has already done and will continue to do to actively promote a range of regional options for data centre investment, while also having regard to the success of Dublin in attracting data centre investment to date and capacity for future growth.
The importance of data centres to Ireland – particularly given the country’s reputation as a leading location for digital economy companies – and the potential for development in regional locations is also recognised in Project Ireland 2040, which makes clear that the promotion of Ireland as a sustainable international destination for ICT infrastructure is a key national objective.