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

Dublin’s elec­tric­ity sup­ply would need to dou­ble to cater for pro­posed pro­jects, writes Fearghal O’con­nor

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

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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