Are we at a turning point for the data centre sector? 

According to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), data centres will consume 32% Ireland’s electricity by 2026, but with the industry under a greater spotlight than ever, can it present an innovative solution to the energy and climate challenges?

Guest post by Mark Yeeles, Vice President, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric, UK & Ireland

What does the future hold for the data centre sector

The news that a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that data centres may consume up-to 32% of Ireland’s total electricity consumption by 2026, comes as little to no surprise.

Right now, the general consumption of our data and digital habits – social media, email, businesses applications, streaming, gaming, scientific research, and enterprise – combined with the adoption of AI platforms, is compounding global data centre growth at a phenomenal rate.

To that effect, another recent study predicts that AI could be on track to consume as much electricity as the entire country of Ireland (29.3 terawatt-hours per year), which is equally as troubling.

However, the misunderstanding of data centres’ role in the business, consumer and economic landscape, the services they enable, the value they add, and the industry’s position as critical infrastructure – that which all of us depend on each day – is widely misunderstood, and it’s clear we’re at a turning point for the sector.

Indeed, data centres provide one of the key solutions to solve the energy and climate challenges, and many operators locally are moving towards a prosumer model – helping to generate as much or more energy than they consume, and thereby reducing their demand on the grid.

To solve Ireland’s energy and ESG challenges, we need immediate, sustainable action, where government and industry collaborate more closely, and combine existing technologies with innovative engineering to future proof the country’s energy, economic, and technological outlook.

Ultimately, we must ask the question, can we live without data centres? The answer is no. Our lives are completely dependent on the digital services they enable. That does not mean, however, that we cannot make sure the industry serves business and consumer demand with sustainability front of mind, and at Schneider Electric we believe that approach is vital.

As we look forwards, renewables and digitalisation are two of the key vectors to solve the climate and energy challenges, and by integrating data centre infrastructure with the grid, and using the industry as a catalyst for sustainable change, we can accelerate the production and adoption of green renewable power, and solve Ireland’s energy challenges simultaneously.

Mark Yeeles, Vice President Secure Power, UK&I, Schneider Electric

Mark Yeeles is the Vice President of Schneider Electric’s Secure Power division in the UK and Ireland. He joined Schneider Electric’s Industrial Automation business in 2015, and during his tenure as VP, delivered a sustained period of growth for its robotics and process automation solutions within end-user segments including Industrial Manufacturing, Consumer Packaged Goods, Water and Wastewater, Plant and Machinery.

In his role as Vice President for the Secure Power division, Mark is tasked with driving profitable growth by working with Schneider Electric’s data centre customers, end-users, and IT channel partners to address the challenges associated with data centre sustainability, efficiency, energy security and resilience.

A passionate advocate for diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) and early careers, Mark believes that encouraging more young people to pursue rewarding careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and investing in equal opportunities for mentorship, coaching and leadership will be crucial to solve the data centre sectors’ skills gap.

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