Power-hungry AI boom making power grids dirtier, less reliable

Power-hungry AI boom making power grids dirtier, less reliable

Artificial Intelligence’s rapid boom is causing a surge in demand for electricity that could pose challenges for the grid, and the companies behind the tech.

From simple ChatGPT queries — which themselves can consume as much electricity as a 60-watt incandescent bulb does in 10 minutes — to more complex image and video creations, to fast-growing enterprise implementation and hardware integration, the AI boom is spiking demand for power on an already-strained grid.

As Bloomberg notes, data centers already consumed more power than entire nations like Italy and Taiwan in 2023, and their energy demand has surged more than seven-fold since 2008, even as chips become more energy-efficient.

AI’s power needs will only get worse, per a Boston Consulting Group report, which pinned current power consumption by data centers at 2.5%, and forecasted up to a three-fold rise to 7.5% by 2030. This hike in demand may not be fillable by existing generation capacity, and certainly not by renewable sources.

In Texas, for example, where devastating blackouts during a winter storm killed more than 240 people in 2021, a substantial rise in energy demand could mean less reliable energy for everyone. 

“Crypto miners and data centers will be responsible for over 50% of the added growth [to power demand]. We need to take a close look at those two industries,” Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick said in a Jun 12 post to X. “We want data centers, but it can’t be the Wild Wild West of data centers and crypto miners crashing our grid and turning the lights off.”

And while big tech firms may be committed to using green energy, the Washington Post reports that, since they run on the same grid as typical power consumers, these data centers tend to eat up much of the renewable energy available, leaving power providers to source dirty energy to fill in gaps.

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