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Amazon raises doubt over ‘capacity to expand’ in Republic due to limits on data centres



Amazon raises doubt over ‘capacity to expand’ in Republic due to limits on data centres

Online retail giant Amazon raised doubts about its “capacity to expand” its cloud computing presence in Ireland during recent lobbying of the Government because of difficulties connecting new data centres to the electricity grid.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing business of online retailer, also told former taoiseach Leo Varadkar it wants the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) to “come forward asap in a way that allows US companies to continue to do business in Ireland”.

Records relating to AWS’s lobbying were released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

Restrictions were put on new data centres three years ago amid concerns about the risk of electricity blackouts.

There are also environmental considerations when it comes to the centres which use large amounts of electricity.

Work, being led by the CRU, is under way on a new large energy user connections policy with the aim of publishing “decision documents” before the end of the summer.

A meeting between AWS vice-president of global public policy Michael Punke and Mr Varadkar took place at the request of the company at the Munich Security Conference in February.

Department of the Taoiseach minutes of the meeting say: “AWS raised concerns re: capacity to expand Irish presence given difficulty connecting new data centres to the grid. Want CRU to come forward asap [as soon as possible] in a way that allows US companies to continue to do business in Ireland.” The notes also say Mr Varadkar was told AWS aims to be “carbon-neutral in 2040 and 100 per cent renewable by 2030″ and it is thought the latter goal would be achieved by 2025.

In response to queries, Amazon said it has a “long history in Ireland”, employs about 6,500 people and has invested more than €17 billion here, and it is to open a dedicated online store for Ireland in 2025.

Amazon said it “engages with the Government on a regular basis to discuss our extensive and long-standing operations here. The forthcoming new large energy user connection policy is important to AWS, our cloud computing business, given that it will determine our route to further investment in new high-tech cloud infrastructure in Ireland”.

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It said it hoped the final policy “will provide a pathway for moderate growth by data centre operators that are fully aligned with the Government’s sustainability and decarbonisation objectives”.

The Government said it is “aware of the views of industry and is conscious there are challenges over the next two to three years in terms of the energy demand. However, embracing digital technologies is crucial for our continued economic growth and prosperity, as well as contributing to climate action. The Government will work with the data centre sector to assist the sustainable development of the digital economy.”

Separately, Amazon wrote to congratulate Simon Harris on becoming Taoiseach and suggested collaboration with the Government on road safety, an area he had identified as a priority as he took office.

Mr Harris was told that Amazon had spent €180 million on safety technology across its transportation network to help reduce accidents and it would “welcome the opportunity to further our collaboration with Government on this crucial issue to help reduce road deaths”.

A Government statement said: “Officials from the Department of Transport and the Road Safety Authority have also met with Amazon in recent months about their use of in-vehicle technology to improve road safety in the United States and UK.”

It added: “While technology can play an important role in improving road safety, it is important to note that Amazon has not yet deployed this in-vehicle technology in any EU member state.”

The statement highlighted the “data protection context” in place in the EU compared to the US and UK.

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