A change of strategy of Google, supposed to settle in Bissen, was mentioned. But concerns about the water and electricity consumption of the gigantic data center are permanent.
The intervention of the Minister of Economy Franz Fayot in the Chamber of Deputies, Wednesday May 4, about the installation of a Google data center in Bissen, during which he announced that “the biggest investment of the history of the Grand Duchy” could be reassessed, did not fail to react to the Ecological Movement (Méco), which took several legal actions to prevent this installation.
Although the Meco was dismissed “because of current legal provisions”, as it wrote in a press release published yesterday, – “for questions of legal interpretation”, summarized Blanche Weber, its president -, Google would reconsider strategically its project in Luxembourg following these legal steps.
Energy consumption at the center of concerns
The ASBL, which is awaiting more precise information on this new strategy, nevertheless retains that the installation of Google remains “highly questionable” and reserves the right to react. The issue of energy consumption induced by the size of this gigantic data center remains at the heart of concerns: the site, planned to extend over an area of 34 hectares, should consume 7% of the country’s electricity and 5 to 10% of Luxembourgers’ water consumption to cool the systems.
“The underground reserves are already in deficit and Luxembourg will have drinking water supply problems in a few years, as an alert on several occasions by the Ministry of the Environment. For the moment, this mainly happens in summer, but we know that the situation will worsen with global warming,” warns Blanche Weber. “Google has never challenged these advanced consumption figures in the public debate. In the absence of official data from Google that would contradict these estimates, the question of water security prevails.
The context of the war in Ukraine shows “how fragile the energy supply can be”. The company consumes a lot of electricity at a time when the Grand Duchy, like its neighbours, seeks to ensure a certain independence but also when “the needs (in electricity) will increase considerably in Luxembourg within the framework of the energy transition and its electrification in different sectors, such as mobility”, points out the Meco in its press release.
A still very vague project
As for the question of jobs and income that the installation of the Google data center in Luxembourg could generate, Blanche Weber reiterates the – vital – problem of water and the absence of precise data in terms of vacancies. both from the American giant, which is always very secretive about its strategies, and from the Luxembourg government, “which limits itself to saying: ‘the installation of Google is a good thing for the country'”.
“On the one hand, the government has a major responsibility to ensure that the inhabitants had enough water in the next 20 years. On the other hand, we do not know how much tax this company will pay, especially since it has already been pinned several times elsewhere for not having paid its taxes. It is also unclear what these promised jobs will represent: how many will there be? Will they really cover Luxembourg’s needs or will it have to call on labor from other countries? asks Blanche Weber.
For the Méco, the area occupied by Google also raises the question in a national context where land is a rare and expensive resource: “This company requires a lot of land – 34 hectares all the same! How many companies could be relocated there?
A catalog of sustainability criteria
The Ecological Movement also insists on the need to establish “legally binding” criteria with a sustainability check before deciding to set up new companies in Luxembourg. Catalog which “has been promised and announced on several occasions, including when Étienne Schneider was Minister of the Economy”, recalls Blanche Weber.
This catalog of criteria, which must of course be “transparent, accessible and comprehensible”, will at least partially avoid long legal battles and interminable discussions, such as those which led against Google, but also of Knauf or FAGE, argues the president of the Meco.
The Meco “remains convinced that in the face of the climate and biodiversity crisis, a targeted policy for the establishment of companies in Luxembourg is necessary”. “Yes” to the establishment of new companies, but companies which meet the environmental, climatic and social provisions defined and which represent a real value added to this due”, he explains in his press release.