Data centres predicted to become prosumers of electricity

In combination with Cornwall Insight and Bit Power, Host in Ireland published its Biannual report of Ireland’s Data Hosting Industry. The report highlights the importance of sustainability in Ireland’s digital transformation.

The report confirmed the number of operational data centres in Ireland increased by 25 per cent over the past year. But, as Ireland moves towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, what does this mean for the electricity grid?

There are concerns on how data centres and the industry’s growth fits into the net zero ambition. However, renewable energy in Ireland is growing fast. In 2020, the renewable portion accounted for more than 40% of the total grid generation. This includes the data centre industry, which currently consumes 11% of the energy generation on the grid today.

Cornwall Insight’s ‘All-Island forward curve’ predicts that this number will increase to 19% in 2026. While this represents an 8% increase in the proportion of data centre megawatt power consumption versus the available energy generation, it is important to note that data centre growth is expected to double in this same five-year time frame.

Data centre power consumption relative to the number of available renewables and conventional generation will not grow at the same rate as industry growth. Because at the same time, the National Electrical Grid in Ireland is looking to transform at an unprecedented rate. Between now and 2030 to meet the target of an annualised minimum of 70% renewable electricity.

To accommodate this transition, large energy users, such as data centres, are likely to become more “prosumer” in nature, meaning they will consume and generate electricity for the grid. Given that renewables are intermittent, data centres’ power quality and generation assets could increase the effectiveness or reliability of renewable generators.

This has a double benefit of providing a balance on the grid and reducing grid-owned power generation assets, which can ultimately reduce the total price of electricity the consumer pays.

With renewables growing and Ireland recently achieving a record 46% renewable energy generation in February 2021. If we continue along these lines, the need for concern about large scale power users will not be warranted.

To read the full report please click here.

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