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Mouvement Ecologique

Activists will continue fight against Google data centre



Blanche Weber, president of the Mouvement Ecologique, which has pledged to continue its fight against the Google data centre in Bissen Photo: Matic Zorman

Blanche Weber, president of the Mouvement Ecologique, which has pledged to continue its fight against the Google data centre in Bissen Photo: Matic Zorman

Environmental group Mouvement Ecologique has said it will continue its fight against a Google data centre in Luxembourg after economy minister Franz Fayot on Wednesday said the government continues supporting the project.

Google in 2017 had bought land in Bissen to build a data centre but is yet to confirm its plans. Fayot speaking in parliament had said the government and the commune still support the project but also that a decision on its future will be needed sooner rather than later.

“Sticking to the project would be irresponsible,” said Meco in a press release, citing the company’s water and electricity needs.

While Google has yet to publicly reveal how much water it would need to cool the servers as its data centre, estimates range from between 5-10% of the country’s national consumption.

“Luxembourg in the coming years will have problems with its drinking water supply. The climate crisis will exacerbate this situation. Given these facts, it would be downright criminal to allow a company to use such high levels of water,” the environmental group said.

Water reserves for 65,000 people are currently unusable because of pollution, and longer dry spells have left the country’s ground water levels depleted.

“How then should the drinking water supply of the population be ensured in the summer months?” With a permit by water management authorities required to operate the data centre, the Mouvement Ecologique said it would contest this.

The group had previously filed a legal complaint against a decision by the commune to grant planning permission but lost its appeal in March this year. Fayot on Wednesday had said that this leaves the path clear for Google to proceed with planning the centre after years of legal uncertainty.

Meco also took authorities to court over their refusal to make public the memorandum of understanding with Google on the data centre. A court eventually ruled that members of parliament should be able to see the document. Under a confidentiality clause, they risk sanction however if they reveal its contents.

Google has yet to disclose how much electricity it would need to operate the data centre, another bone of contention for Meco. “The demand for electricity will increase significantly in Luxembourg as part of the energy transition and the electrification of various sectors (e.g. mobility),” it said in its statement.

The government has pledged to give a greater role to environmental concerns when attracting new businesses and handing out permits, but this is so far not reflected in legislation.

This matter previously came to a head over the construction of a yoghurt factory by Greek dairy company Fage, which eventually dropped plans after mounting opposition from environmentalists and the Bettembourg and Dudelange communes, where it had purchased land in 2016.

Previously, the Differdange and Sanem communes shot down plans for a rockwool factory over pollution concerns.