Many activities relating to the operation of a data centre need both planning permission and an environmental permit.

These regimes are distinct and separate. Planning permission deals with the entitlement to construct infrastructure and use it for a particular purpose, but does not typically deal with operational requirements. This article provides an overview to some of the environmental licenses relevant to data centre operations.

Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) Licenses

  • Required for back-up generators servicing data facilities, with a total rated thermal input exceeding 50MW if the back-up generator operates for more than 18 hours a year.
  • An IED License will be required If the annual operating hours exceed this threshold for operation
  • The application process for an IED license is complicated.
  • The assistance of a specialist environmental consultant is required as detailed environmental liability risk assessments and a fully costed aftercare management plan must be submitted to and approved by the EPA.

General Permits

  • Activities likely to have a significant effect on the environment (known as ‘scheduled activities’) require a separate environmental license from the EPA.
  • Data centers typically do not require such licenses.
  • A lower grade of license or permit may be necessary from a local authority or other administrative body for activities such as minor air emissions, discharge of trade effluent to drains and sewers, smaller waste storage, transfer and recovery operations which are likely to have a lesser effect on the environment, and which do not come within the scheduled activities.
  • Data centers typically require some or all of these licenses.

Geenhouse Gas (GHG) Permits

  • Required for any installation where fuel is burned in combustion units of 3MW rated thermal input or above for any purpose and which, when aggregated, together exceed 20MW rated thermal input.
  • All units with a rated thermal input capacity of less than 3MW must be excluded from the determination of total thermal input capacity.
  • Should the aggregation of the remaining units still exceed 20MW, all units regardless of thermal input capacity shall be included for permitting. A GHG permit may therefore be required for back-up generators.

Commission for Regulation of Utilities and Energy (CRU) Licenses/Authorisations

  • A generation license is required for generators that exceed 1MW.
  • Application generally takes between 6 and 12 weeks to process.
  • Generators with installed capacities of 1MW or less are authorised by the CRU by way of order, which is a less onerous application process.

Effluent Discharge Licenses

  • Required for the discharge of trade effluent (which includes condensate from cooling systems) or sewage effluent to a public sewer.
  • Granted by Irish Water.
  • Such licenses will impose conditions on the content and quantity of effluent, set fees payable, and require disclosure of accidental breach.