ESB at risk from ‘power-hungry’ city data centres

ESB is facing demands to more than double its entire electricity supply for Dublin to feed proposed new “power-hungry” data centres, the company has warned.

It said in its interim financial statement for the six months to the end of June 2017 that following the completion of its mid-year risk review process, the data centre issue was now a ‘principal risk’ for the entire organisation.

Other key risks identified include the threat of outages from severe weather, generation plant availability, the industrial relations environment, adverse movements in energy prices and the possibility of a credit downgrade as a result of unsatisfactory financial performance.

“An additional risk has been identified for 2017, which is the ability of ESB Networks to meet the increase in infrastructure demand in Dublin,” said the report.

Responding to follow-up questions from the Sunday Independent, a company spokesman said that “the planning applications in place for power hungry data centres poses some challenges for ESB Networks”.

“To put it into context, the current load in Dublin is around 1,200 mega volt amps (MVA), which has grown over the last 90 years, and there is about 1,400 MVA in data centre applications and enquiries in train,” he said.

The spokesman insisted that the “unprecedented load growth is a challenge that ESB Networks is rising to”.

Data centres are major consumers of electricity and a single data centre can consume as much power as a large regional town such as Drogheda, he said.

There are five 220kV stations serving the total electrical demand in the Dublin region. ESB Networks are engaged in constructing two new 220kV stations at Belcamp in North Dublin and at Grange Castle in West Dublin in order to cater for additional demand.

There have been applications and enquiries for new data centres that exceed 1,400MVA in the Dublin region.

“This level of demand growth is unprecedented and would almost double the demand in Dublin over a five-year period,” the spokesman said.

“Data centres have tended to require large tranches of capacity in aggressive timelines and to date that capacity has been available. ESB Networks have processed a number of large applications for major new data centres in the Grange Castle area in West Dublin.

“In order to facilitate the growing demand there was a requirement for a new 220kV/110kV station to be constructed to reinforce the network,” the spokesman said.

This station – called Castlebaggot – is scheduled for completion in 2019. Likewise, further development of Belcamp will enhance ESB Networks’ ability to satisfy load growth in North Dublin, he added.

The interim report showed that ESB had made a profit after interest and tax of €173m and paid a €60m dividend to the Government in the period.


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