The AI ​​revolution has one problem: energy

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Artificial intelligence is helping the oil and gas industry increase production by speeding up drilling and increasing efficiency. It offers similar benefits to other industries and online platforms and websites are growing rapidly with AI-powered chatbots. But there is a problem. AI consumes a lot of electricity.

A New Yorker article last month cited half a million kilowatt hours. per day. This is the power consumption of ChatGPT to handle the two hundred million requests received per day. That’s a lot of electricity. And this is just one AI program.

According to a Dutch scientist who has calculated the potential electricity consumption of AI technology globally, it could reach a staggering 85 terawatt hours. per annum. And this is the lower end of the range. The high end is 134 terawatt hours or 134 billion kilowatt hours.

“You’re talking about the size of a country like the Netherlands in terms of electricity consumption. You’re talking about half a percent of our total global electricity consumption,” Alex de Vries told the BBC last year. told that he had written a study. AI hits headlines about its hunger for electricity.

Needless to say, this kind of additional demand cannot be met by wind and solar, as De Vries himself admits. “We need fusion or we need, essentially, cheap solar plus storage, or something else, like a large-scale, a scale that nobody’s really planning for,” de Vries said. told New York in March. Alternatively, gas consumption for power generation – and quite likely coal consumption – will increase to meet this demand.

Former US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a staunch supporter of the energy transition, put it even more succinctly: “We’re not going to build 100 gigawatts of new renewables in a few years. You’re kind of stuck.” ” he said at last. Month in comments on AI’s energy needs, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal. Related: Top US Utilities Prepare for AI-Driven Increase in Power Demand

This is all because AI programs require a lot of information to perform a task. De Vries has calculated that if Google were to convert its search engine to generative AI, the search engine’s electricity consumption would reach 29 TWh per year. And that’s just Google, which began testing AI-powered searches in the UK earlier this month.

“The more information they collect, the smarter they are, but the more information they collect to be smart, the more power is taken.” That’s the description provided by the chief executive of Arm, a chip design company owned by Japan’s Softbank.

That amount of electricity, in total, could account for between a fifth and a quarter of total U.S. electricity demand by 2030, Rene Haas told the Wall Street Journal this week. “It’s hardly very sustainable, to be honest with you.”

In fact, it’s not exactly sustainable if you’re planning to shift to low-carbon energy generation, which will inevitably require a reduction in energy demand rather than an increase. And that’s why the oil and gas industry is so obsessed with AI, especially the gas part of it.

“Gas is the only affordable energy product capable of providing reliable 24/7 electricity to big technology companies to power the AI ​​boom,” said the founder and senior partner of Energy Capital Partners, an investment firm. Earlier this month, Ft.

According to the company, this is why increased use of AI will require expansion of gas production capacity. The word “critical” was used. Or as EQT chief executive Toby Rice put it, echoing Ernest Moniz’s message, “It won’t happen without gas.”

All this has put advocates of change in a quandary. On the one hand, artificial intelligence promises to help drive change, according to some of the lawyers who work in the technology space. Yet on the other hand, it clearly hinders the progress of this transition by raising the question of energy demand that only hydrocarbons can answer.

The AI ​​boom is also incompatible with the idea of ​​devolution that is gaining traction in Europe. Degrowth refers to the idea that economies no longer need to aim for growth at all costs. Conversely, low consumption is what economies should strive for, especially low energy consumption. This will not work with AI data centers.

“It will be difficult to accelerate the breakthroughs that we need if the power requirements for these large data centers for people to do research continue to grow,” Armshaus told the WSJ. Told Jay.

It is also going to be difficult for Big Tech to promote the energy transition and continue to advertise their power purchase agreements as their clean energy commitments are put into practice. Growth vs. decline is one thing. But what happens when the debate turns to technological progress versus the end of progress? Big Tech, the darling of green investors, may become a new target for activists.

By Irina Slav for

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