AI Can Accelerate the Clean Energy Transition—But Only If We Train It To

AI Clean Energy Transition Electrical grid Digital Technology-behavior

It is encouraging to see American homes, vehicles, and new industrial facilities moving away from fossil fuels in favor of clean electricity. A less welcome trend is the rapid growth in electricity demand that the power grid is unprepared for. The proliferation of data centers to meet the growing demand for artificial intelligence (AI) is exacerbating this problem. 

Our daily digital lives depend on energy-intensive computing power. When we work in the cloud, shop online, stream TV, use social media, or call a ride, we use electricity. AI models are among the most energy-hungry digital processes we’ve seen in decades. AI offers enormous potential to advance knowledge and convenience and accelerate the digitalization of modern cities, buildings, transportation, farms, and factories. It can also help keep our electricity supply affordable and reliable even as demand surges. 

Companies like Google and Microsoft/Open AI are leveraging their procurement power to accelerate advanced clean electricity technologies. Similar efforts have primarily focused on supply-side solutions, such as wind and solar in the immediate future, and eventually advanced nuclear, enhanced geothermal, hydrogen, and long-term storage. These are worthy initiatives, but building more generation and transmission capacity alone cannot resolve the new energy crisis we are facing, at least not within the limited time left for us to combat climate change. All these innovative technologies won’t be widely adopted for decades. In the meantime, our grid will continue to strain under the power demands of AI, electric vehicles, and other electric equipment and devices in a more connected world.

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