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Data centers could use 9% of US electricity by 2030

Data centers could use up to 9% of total electricity generated in the United States by the end of the decade, more than doubling their current consumption, as technology companies pour funds into expanding their computing hubs, the Electric Power Research Institute said on Wednesday.

Depending on the adoption pace of technology such as generative artificial intelligence (AI), which is fueling the expansion of data centers, and the energy efficiency of new centers, the estimated annual growth rate of electricity use by the industry ranges from 3.7% to 15% through 2030, the institute’s analysis said. The institute is a U.S.-based research organization funded by energy and government organizations.

Why it’s important
Data centers, along with expanding domestic manufacturing and electrification of transportation, are lifting the U.S. electricity industry out of two decades of flat growth.

The centers require massive amounts of power for high-intensity computing and cooling systems, with a new large data center requiring the same amount of electricity needed to power 750,000 homes, according to numerous energy company earnings calls this year.

A doubling in data centers’ power use could strain the country’s electric grid and lead to rising power bills and outages.

Context
Since the roll-out of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in 2022, the data center business has become one of the world’s fastest-growing industries.

While early ChatGPT searches required about 10 times the electricity of a typical Google search, the growing use of generative AI to make movies and music could require vastly more power, the institute said.

Key quote
“With 5.3 billion global internet users, widespread adoption of these tools could potentially lead to a step change in power requirements,” according to the institute, which recommended better data center energy efficiency and more grid investment.

By the numbers
About 80% of the 2023 U.S. data center load was concentrated in 15 states, primarily Virginia and Texas, the institute said. Reuters

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