AI’s Thirst for Energy Threatens Electric Grids

The rapidly growing demand for electricity could lead to shortages and is already impacting where data centers are built.

1 minute read

May 21, 2024, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Two men in white and yellow hard hats and matching jackets looking up at power infrastructure in outdoor electrical substation or plant.

Andrii / Adobe Stock

The growing ubiquity of artificial intelligence poses a serious challenge to worldwide energy grids, writes Dan Lohrmann in GovTech.

Citing multiple news stories ranging in tone from alarm to boosterism, Lohrmann assesses the landscape and how experts perceive the future of AI versus energy conservation. An article in Barrons notes that “While AI’s surging demand may not lead to mass electrical outages, the AI boom is already changing how data centers are built and where they’re located, and it’s already sparking a reshaping of U.S. energy infrastructure.”

According to an article in New Scientist, “Over the next several years, many regions of the U.S. and Canada may struggle to ensure a reliable electricity supply amid soaring energy demand from the tech industry and electrification of buildings and vehicles.” 

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) agreed, projecting widespread electricity shortages during extreme weather conditions. According to research from the AI Now Institute, which studies the social impacts of AI, “At current growth rates, some new AI servers could soon gobble up more than 85 terawatt hours of electricity each year, researchers have estimated — more than some small nations’ annual energy consumption.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2024 in GovTech

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