Meta Pauses Dutch Data Centre Plans Amid Political Pushback

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Environmental campaigners and both local and national politicians have opposed the plans as the Netherlands seeks to rein in data centre development.

Meta has put its plans for a hyperscale data centre in the Dutch municipality of Zeewolde on hold in light of increasing political opposition.

The data centre, which was set to be the largest in The Netherlands, was planned for a 166-hectare site. It was expected to use 1.38 gigawatt hours of electricity generated from renewable sources and 400 permanent jobs were to be created alongside the investment.

The plans were approved by the local council in December. The majority of councillors voted to change Zeewolde’s zoning plan to facilitate the build. However, recent local elections have shifted power to those in opposition to Meta’s data centre plans.

Meta’s plans have also run aground at a national level. A week ago, the Dutch senate passed a motion asking the government to temporarily block construction on the site in Zeewolde until a government policy on data centres is agreed.

The Dutch government is considering stricter rules on data centres and is not currently issuing new permits while these are developed.

Meta appears to have narrowly avoided a temporary ban on data centre builds in the province of Flevoland, where Zeewolde is located, while their impact is reviewed. The moratorium was enacted in June 2021, while the company then known as Facebook reportedly submitted its application in February.

A Meta spokesperson confirmed to Reuters that the Zeewolde data centre development has been paused “given the current circumstances”.

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The development, which would be about an hour from Amsterdam, was also opposed by environmental campaigners who have raised concerns around tech multinationals monopolising the Netherlands’ renewable energy sources.

The Dutch Data Centre Association projects that data centres will account for 10pc of the Netherlands’ electricity use by 2030.

Last year, Microsoft saw local opposition to a proposed data centre in Hollands Kroon and was warned that the electricity grid in the area was nearing capacity. However, construction was allowed to continue in September 2021, at Microsoft’s own risk.

Google has also faced opposition to its data centres in the Netherlands. Last summer, it rolled back plans to expand its existing site in Wieringermeerpolder with three more buildings. Google also operates data centres in Eemshaven and Middenmeer.

While Meta’s plans in Zeewolde are on hold, the door has been left open for the US tech giant to restart the project.

Dutch news agency ANP reports that Tom Zonneveld, chair of local party Leefbaar Zeewolde, said this was “a postponement and not an adjustment” and that the party, which opposed the plans, is considering next steps.

Meta also has European data centres in Clonee, Co Meath, as well as sites in Denmark and Sweden. These data centres support the operation of Meta services such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for users across Europe.