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Energy Scare

Summer Heat Wave Ahead - Warning Sign
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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

Summer is months away but there is already news of an energy shortage on the Texas power grid. Most people would not think Texas would have an energy scare. But officials asked power generators to postpone scheduled maintenance “to help alleviate potential tight conditions.”

Usually the grid has excess power-generation capacity in the Spring, especially given that the temperatures are in the 80s. One reason for the shortage is population growth, but others have to do with the electricity needed for new data centers.

Data centers need power 24/7 and cannot be shut off in the way that manufacturing plants or even bitcoin mining can be shut down when there is peak energy demand. Although we need data servers in this cyber age, it is worth mentioning that one significant amount of energy is merely used for pornography. Internet usage accounts for 10 percent of the world’s total energy consumption and is estimated to reach 20 percent in a few years. One study estimated that 35 percent of the Internet bandwidth is pornography.

Data centers already account for about 2.5 percent of US electricity but are expected to use more than 20 percent by the end of this decade. The reason for that is artificial intelligence. A typical web search uses less than one watt of power. An AI-powered search requires 100 watts. Training an AI search uses 1,000 watts.

A decade ago, The Guardian warned that “viral cat videos are warming the planet.” We now know more about what sectors of the Internet use electricity. We also know that we have more electric vehicles on the road than any other time in history.

Before we get to hot summers that demand even more electricity, we need to have a serious conversation about energy use and energy demands.viewpoints new web version

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