Caution AI sector could consume as much energy as the Netherlands

AI sector could consume as much energy as the Netherlands

According to a recent estimate, by 2027 the Artificial Intelligence, AI sector might use as much energy as the Netherlands as a whole.

Since ChatGPT exploded onto the market last year, major internet companies have been rushing to integrate AI-powered services.

They consume far more energy than traditional programs, which increases the energy cost of using the Internet.

The report did note that if AI’s present expansion slows down, its potential environmental impact may be less than initially thought.

Numerous experts, including the author of the report, argue that this kind of research is speculative because IT companies don’t release enough information to allow for precise forecasting.

But without a doubt, AI jobs demand more powerful hardware than conventional computer tasks.

The analysis by Alex De Vries, a PhD candidate at the VU Amsterdam School of Business and Economics, is predicated on the assumption that a few key variables stay the same, including the rate of advancement in AI, the accessibility of AI chips, and the continuous operation of servers.

According to Mr. De Vries, Nvidia is anticipated to provide roughly 95% of the AI processing equipment needed by the industry.

Based on the anticipated volume of these computers by 2027, he was able to estimate that AI will use between 85 and 134 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity annually.

At the upper end, that is approximately the annual power consumption of a small nation.

In terms of electricity usage, you would be talking about the size of a nation like the Netherlands. You’re discussing roughly 0.5 percent of the world’s total electricity usage, he said to BBC News.

Nvidia chose not to respond.

AI should only be applied in situations where it is truly necessary, according to Mr. De Vries’ research.

The journal Joule has published his peer-reviewed paper.

How much water and energy does AI use?

For AI systems to function, such as the massive language models behind well-known chatbots like Google’s Bard and OpenAI’s ChatGPT, warehouses full of specialised processors, or data centres, are needed.

This implies that the equipment requires more water-intensive systems to keep cool and is more power-hungry than the standard kit.

The energy needed for cooling was not included in the research. Many large tech companies don’t measure this particular water or energy use. Among those urging the industry to be more open about it is Mr. de Vries.

The need for the computers that drive artificial intelligence is undoubtedly growing, and so is the energy required to keep those servers cool.

At the beginning of 2023, Danny Quinn, the CEO of the Scottish data centre company DataVita, claimed his company was receiving “one or two enquiries a week” about using his facility to store AI kit. Now, he is receiving hundreds.

He also discussed how a rack with AI processors and one with regular servers used different amounts of energy.

A family house’s worth of power is roughly 4 kW, which is the power output of a conventional rack full of standard equipment. In contrast, an AI kit rack would require roughly 20 times that amount of power or 80kW. And a single data centre may have hundreds or even thousands of these.

AI sector could consume as much energy as the Netherlands
| Inside DataVita's Fortis data centre in Scotland's central belt/ DATAVITA

Although it is still a significant undertaking, he continued, Scotland’s colder and wetter climate offered a natural benefit in helping the data centres keep equipment cool.

Microsoft, which is significantly investing in AI development, disclosed in its most recent sustainability report that its water use increased by 34% between 2021 and 2022 to 6.4 million cubic metres or roughly the size of 2,500 Olympic swimming pools.

The author of a book on artificial intelligence and its effects on the environment, Prof. Kate Crawford, claimed that the problem kept her up at night.

“These energy-intensive systems take enormous amounts of electricity and energy, but also enormous amounts of water to cool these gigantic AI supercomputers,” the speaker told the BBC in July. Therefore, the 21st century is likely to see the growth of a massive extractive sector.”

However, there is also hope that AI will be able to assist in resolving some of the planet’s environmental problems.

AI sector could consume as much energy as the Netherlands
| AI tools are being used to try to reduce the number of vapour trails left across our skies by aeroplanes/ Getty Images

Recently, Google and American Airlines discovered that by utilising an experimental AI tool to choose altitude, pilots may reduce the number of contrails (vapour trails) produced by aircraft by half. It is well-recognised that contrails exacerbate global warming.

Attempts to replicate nuclear fusion, the process by which the Sun generates energy, are costing millions of dollars, and the US government is one of those involved.

A green power source that is endless would be a big game changer if this project were to succeed. Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to accelerate research, which has advanced extremely slowly since the 1960s.

According to university professor Brian Spears, in February of this year, he employed artificial intelligence (AI) to forecast the outcome of an experiment that led to a breakthrough.

We generated ten petawatts of power for one hundred trillionth of a second. “It was the solar system’s brightest object, he wrote.

Credits: BBC

Read more at News Intercept:

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