AI is an energy hog. This is what it means for CLIMATE CHANGE.

As AI has become more integrated into our world, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the technology’s rising electricity demand. You may have seen the headlines proclaiming that AI uses as much electricity as small countries, that it’ll usher in a fossil-fuel resurgence, and that it’s already challenging the grid.

So how worried should we be about AI’s electricity demands? Well, it’s complicated.

In total, the IEA projects, the world will add about 3,500 TWh of electricity demand over that same period—so while computing is certainly part of the demand crunch, it’s far from the whole story. Electric vehicles and the industrial sector will both be bigger sources of growth in electricity demand than data centers in the European Union, for example.

We’ll have to wait and see if doomsday predictions about AI’s energy demand play out. The way I see it, though, AI is probably going to be a small piece of a much bigger story. Ultimately, rising electricity demand from AI is in some ways no different from rising demand from EVs, heat pumps, or factory growth. It’s really how we meet that demand that matters.

If we build more fossil-fuel plants to meet our growing electricity demand, it’ll come with negative consequences for the climate. But if we use rising electricity demand as a catalyst to lean harder into renewable energy and other low-carbon power sources, and push AI to get more efficient, doing more with less energy, then we can continue to slowly clean up the grid, even as AI continues to expand its reach in our lives.

Read the complete article on MIT Technology Review:

This article is from The Spark, MIT Technology Review’s weekly climate newsletter.

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