John Rafferty, ESB
Achieving Ireland’s targets to decarbonise will be challenging. The Irish government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% over this decade with targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Significant steps have been taken by ESB to decarbonise the energy sector in Ireland in areas such as transmission, distribution and generation sectors. Over the past 5 years, ESB’s Smart Energy Services have worked with industries to reduce the carbon impact of their energy consumption, investing over €50 million. With the data centre sector booming in Ireland now is the time for the industry to play its part in Ireland’s drive to a low carbon future and we are currently working with a range of data centre clients to help realise this goal. Much has been achieved by operators in this space, but challenges lie ahead.
Increasing renewable generation capacity is one step. Wind power, for example, has been adopted by some of the largest operators in the Irish Market through mechanisms such as cooperate renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPA). While such schemes can play a significant role, increasing renewable generation is not without its challenges including the requirement for significant infrastructure developments and the need to ensure system stability is maintained.
Deployment of on-site generation, such as Solar PV technologies, can also play a significant role. These options can present a significant investment for a data centre operator but provide a reliable supply of renewable energy to operations without burdening the grid.
Consistency of energy consumption is a defining feature of data centres, with little down periods of energy usage compared to other industries. While this is a challenge it also presents interesting opportunities.
Flexibility, achieved though managing how data centres take electricity from the grid at any time, is the key to maintaining system stability and security of supply while enabling greater capacities of renewable generation. Given their requirement for high availability data centres possess significant inherent flexibility, including storage capacities from back-up generation and UPS battery systems. In addition, technologies such as standalone battery systems can optimise energy utilisation. These solutions can not only support increased renewables in Ireland but also unlock potential new revenue streams for data centre operators.
Another interesting opportunity is the capacity of waste heat produced by the cooling requirements of data halls. Through effective capture and management this significant heat potential can be utilised to reduce the requirement for other carbon intensive heating process by other industries such as manufacturing and agriculture, or district heating schemes, to produce a significant net carbon saving.
Through utilising a combination of energy services large users of energy, like data centres, can operate more energy efficiently, while significantly reducing their carbon impact. These services can range from assessing the efficiency of lighting infrastructure, to utilising battery storage options through to developing an energy centre for distributing waste heat from the data centre to power other infrastructure.
ESB’s Smart Energy Services harnesses its industry knowledge, engineering expertise and disruptive technology to help large energy users to significantly reduce energy costs, carbon emissions and energy consumption by providing turnkey, CAPEX funded, low carbon energy centre solutions. We partner with organisations to adapt to the most demanding energy environments by designing tailored Energy-as-a-Service solutions; optimising energy consumption and operating onsite energy technologies to help customers unlock the true value of their energy. We are excited to work with data centre clients to help support Ireland in achieving its decarbonisation goals.
See more at www.esb.ie/our-businesses/smart-energy-services