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Google plans for Luxembourg centre may be in doubt

Google plans for Luxembourg centre may be in doubt

by Emery P. DALESIO 2 min. 04.05.2022
Original proposals for data hub could be revised, says Economy Minister, despite legal victories for tech giant against campaigners
Google officials discuss their company's plans for a data centre in Bissen during a town meeting in November 2019
Google officials discuss their company's plans for a data centre in Bissen during a town meeting in November 2019
Photo credit: Gerry Huberty

By Emery P. Dalesio and Yannick Hansen

Luxembourg's government remains in support of plans by US tech giant Google to build a massive data centre in the country, but the economy minister on Wednesday raised doubts about whether the company still has the same goal after waging a long court fight.

Economy Minister Franz Fayot said he wouldn't be surprised if Google ended up changing its original plans, given that an environmental group's legal fight against the data centre lasted for three years before its conclusion in March.

However, discussions Fayot has had with Google do not indicate the company has given up on Luxembourg, he said.

The economy minister said he “would not be surprised" if the project were to "look differently" compared to when Google first pitched the plans several years ago. “In the context of (Google’s) investments in our neighbouring region, one should assume that Google (may) revise the strategic importance and orientation of the project in Luxembourg,” Fayot added. 

Google has built five data centres since 2007 in the neighbouring Belgian province of Wallonia, investing more than €1.6 billion. The company's vigorous expansion across Europe during 2021 included the purchase of more than 50 hectares in Wallonia that could be used for further growth there, local media reported late last year.

Google did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

The environmental campaign group, Mouvement écologique, last summer lost court challenges seeking to slow or stop the vast warehouse of computer servers that they argue could require 8% to 10% of the country's limited water supplies. 

Google refused to disclose its exact requirements for cooling the servers, arguing in court that would enable its rivals to figure out important details of its business plans.

However, judges did allow the environmental group to contest whether permissions allowing Google to build on land in Bissen complied with the country's law on natural conservation. The campaigners lost that challenge to land reclassification two months ago, Mouvement écologique President Blanche Weber confirmed to The Luxembourg Times.

In a separate legal case, the environmental organisation last year also failed to persuade judges to publish a document outlining any promises Luxembourg government officials made to lure Google. Mouvement écologique said it had sought to reveal how much water and electricity Google had been promised at the Luxembourg site.

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