Dutch town approves licence for Meta data centre, biggest in Netherlands


FILE PHOTO: A woman holds smartphone with Facebook logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -The town of Zeewolde, 50km east of Amsterdam, on Thursday approved plans by Meta to build the largest data centre in the Netherlands from which Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp can serve users all over Europe.

The facility, which will use 1.38GWh of electricity and cover 166 hectares (410 acres) of farmland, is expected to run on green energy and provide the local economy a boost but has been criticised by some politicians and environmental campaigners.

The centre is expected to create 400 permanent jobs in the town, which has a population of 20,000.

While the country's previous economic affairs ministry lobbied to attract data centres to the Netherlands, including major facilities by Google and Microsoft that also run on renewable energy, politicians have recently begun questioning whether the number and placement of data centres should be determined by the national government.

"Hyperscale data centres place an unreasonably large demand on the available renewable energy in relationship to their societal or economic value," the parties forming Prime Minister Mark Rutte's new government wrote in their governing pact published a day ahead of the Zeewolde council vote.

"We will be sharpening the national coordination and admissions criteria for licensing."

Hendrik Visser, a council member for the VVD Party, acknowledged that there were drawbacks to having a large centre in the town, but said the benefits were greater for general development of the town.

"To satisfy our online needs, data centres are simply necessary," he said. "They have to go somewhere, and it's probably not imprudent to build them here in Western Europe, centralized under our laws, and to see what they can mean in this case for Zeewolde."

Meta spokeswoman Melanie Roe said initial construction costs would be around 700 million euros ($795 million) and no date has been set yet for completion.

The 800,000-strong population of Amsterdam are heavy users of data services provided by Meta, yet regional authorities have issued a ban on the construction of further data centres in the city due to strains on its electric grid.

The Dutch Data Centre Association estimates that currently data centres make up about 3% of all Dutch electricity usage, but that may rise to 10% by 2030.

($1 = 0.8812 euros)

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and David Gregorio)

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