Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Emergency electricity generation bill intended to protect data centres, not citizens

Pringle: Emergency electricity generation bill intended to protect data centres, not citizens

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, criticised the Government for its last-minute publication of a bill on emergency electricity generation, which he said was intended to protect data centres.

Addressing the Dáil on Tuesday, Deputy Pringle said: “I would like to condemn the last-minute publication of this bill. I have been forced to raise this issue quite often recently, but I will continue to as long as the Government continues to facilitate such last-minute publications, which completely undermine the democratic process. The issues addressed in this bill are not new. There have been concerns of energy demand outpacing supply for years now and so there really is no excuse for this rushed legislation. 

“As I understand it, the legislation provides for the procurement of 450MW of temporary emergency generation capacity in order to mitigate the security of supply risk for winter this year. I would call on the Minister to be honest with the public about why this legislation is needed and why we are facing this supply risk.

“The truth is that the legislation is not being introduced to protect ordinary citizens. I believe the government’s real intention is to protect data centres, which consume more electricity than all of our rural homes put together. Figures show that all of Ireland’s rural homes use 12% of the country’s electricity, while data centres use an incredible 14%.”

He said: “Yet the government tries to blame concerns of energy supply solely on the war in Ukraine. This is disingenuous and insulting to our citizens.”

The deputy was speaking on Environmental Protection Agency (Emergency Electricity Generation) (Amendment) Bill 2023.

Deputy Pringle said there are now about 70 data centres in Ireland, a number that is set to grow.

The deputy said: “TikTok is currently in the process of opening the first of its European data centres in Dublin, while also ‘finalising plans’ for a second data centre in Ireland. It has now been announced that TikTok are in discussions for a third European data centre. The fact that the government is allowing this to happen and actually facilitating it through legislation such as this, is completely unacceptable.

“Data centres are an enormous drain on our resources, and not just electricity. They are a drain on our gas, water and land, never mind the fact that they are completely at odds with our climate goals. 

“Our electricity grid can no longer keep up with this and the level of electricity these centres consume has forced us to face the possibility of energy shortages and blackouts,” he said.

“We are the only country in the world that has allowed this immense level of electricity consumption from data centres. Dr Paul Deane points out that ‘globally, the electricity consumption from data centres is about 1%”, yet Ireland has allowed data centres to take up 14% of our electricity,” he said.

The deputy said the bill is “anti-green to its core, yet it is being introduced by a Green minister”.

Deputy Pringle said: “How can the Green Party stand by facilitating more data storage facilities for tech companies, when the opening of more centres will make it impossible for us to meet our climate goals? How can the Minister justify the fact he has not imposed any environmental conditions on these centres, which are putting huge pressure on our country’s energy infrastructure?”

He said: “Although Eirgrid used to plan and develop the grid around the predicted growth of towns and cities, they are now guided by the demands of larger tech companies and their data-storage requirements. The power and influence of these companies on the Greens and government legislation is concerning and a reflection of the capitalist society in which we live, and we see where the priority is in relation to it.”