At a Time of Climate Crisis: Data centres are a serious threat to Ireland’s carbon budgets

Eighteen per cent of Irish electricity was consumed by data centres in 2022, as much as all urban homes, making the country an outlier

In this month’s column for the Irish Times MaREI researcher Dr Hannah Daly at ERI, University College Cork discusses how data centres are a serious threat to Ireland’s carbon budgets. 

Humanity’s knack for finding new ways to consume energy is not showing any sign of abating. Take cryptocurrency: a single bitcoin transaction can consume more electricity than a US household does in a month. Or artificial intelligence: a query on ChatGPT uses 10 times more electricity than a Google search, and shifting all internet queries to using AI could consume as much electricity as Ireland does in a year.

Until recently, electricity consumption from data centres accounted for only about 1 per cent of electricity demand globally: energy demand from the explosion in computing, cloud storage, streaming, video calls and so on have been offset by efficiency gains.

But this landscape has shifted recently with the prevalence of AI and cryptocurrency, and the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that data centres will drive significant electricity growth.

Read the full article here.