IEA Projects Data Center Electricity Needs to Exceed 1,000 Twh by 2026, Raising Environmental Concerns

Data centers, the power hungry giants, face an imminent global energy demand surge, potentially doubling by 2026, per an International Electricity Agency (IEA) report.

In 2022, the combined power usage of data centers, AI, and cryptocurrency hit 460 TWh (Terawatt-hours), nearing 2% of global electricity demand. Anticipated to exceed 1,000 TWh by 2026, mirroring Japan's entire energy consumption.

In the US, electricity consumption, down 1.6% after a 2.6% rise in 2022, is expected to rebound. IEA projects the main surge in data center electricity needs in Ireland and Denmark. Globally, over 8,000 data centers exist, with 33% in the US, 16% in Europe, and around 10% in China, concentrated in California, Texas, and Virginia.

IEA forecasts a tenfold rise in Google's electricity demand due to AI integration. A comparison with OpenAI's ChatGPT reveals a potential need for an extra 10 TWh annually, considering 9 billion searches daily. Cryptocurrency's electricity consumption, rivaling the Netherlands, is projected to surge by 40%, with IEA acknowledging uncertainties in adoption pace and tech efficiency.

Fortunately, the electricity surge aligns with growing energy production. Bloomberg notes renewable sources outpacing demand, with IEA asserting renewables surpassing coal as the primary electricity source by 2025. IEA's Faith Birol emphasizes the positive trajectory of renewables and nuclear power offsetting global electricity demand, considering the power sector's leading role in global CO2 emissions.

Concurrently, increased fresh water usage, linked to data center cooling, is evident. Major tech players like Microsoft and Google report substantial water consumption spikes, marking a 34% and 21% increase in 2022 compared to the prior year, which could become a big contributing factor in climate change in the coming years.

Chart: IEA

Note: Content produced using AI and edited by humans.

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