Data centre power consumption could surge sixfold over a decade

  • National Grid predicts that the boom in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing will drive a surge in energy use, both of which rely on data centres.
  • The huge power consumption of data centres is making the grid “constrained” and “bold action” is needed to create a network that can handle the “dramatic” increase in demand.
  • It’s a “critical time” for grid transformation, and with the growing demand for energy-intensive technologies, more and more people are opting for heat pumps or electric vehicles.

Sixfold increase in 10 years

The National Grid predicts that the boom in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing will drive a surge in energy use. Both rely on data centres – warehouses filled with computer systems. CEO John Pettigrew said the power used by these data centres will increase sixfold over the next decade. 

He said the grid was becoming “constrained” and “bold action” was needed to create a network that could cope with a “dramatic” increase in demand. “Future growth in fundamental technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing will mean a much larger energy-intensive computing infrastructure,” Mr. Pettigrew said.

Also read: Nvidia’s next-generation data centres to work with cloud providers

Power grid transformation ‘critical moment’

In a speech shared on LinkedIn on Tuesday, Pettigrew said it was a “critical time” for the grid’s transformation – with growing demand for energy-intensive technologies and more people opting for heat pumps or electric vehicles.

“Today, just as in the 1950s, we find ourselves with limited networks,” he said.

“Demand on the grid is growing dramatically and is expected to double by 2050 as heat, transport and industry continue to electrify.”

To achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in line with global targets, grid operators are under pressure to upgrade existing infrastructure to meet higher consumer demand for electricity in the future and to be sustainable by connecting to renewable energy sources.

Pettigrew said we are at “a moment that requires innovative thinking and bold action to create a transmission network for tomorrow’s future.”

Also read: Microsoft hires nuclear expert to fuel its data centres

Indispensability of data centres

Most observers agree that whatever the future looks like, data centres will be a part of it.They have become an integral part of our modern lives and technology, serving as the physical home for digital information stored in the so-called “cloud” and other forms of IT equipment, powering services and platforms.

But all this computing power comes at an environmental cost. Some studies warn that the AI industry alone could consume as much energy as a country the size of the Netherlands by 2027. In the Republic of Ireland, home to the European headquarters of several major tech companies such as Google and Facebook parent Meta, data centres accounted for nearly a fifth of all electricity consumption in 2022, official data shows. Since 2015, the electricity consumption of data centres in the country has increased by 400 percent and sparked a debate about capacity.


Tuna Tu

Tuna Tu, an intern reporter at BTW media dedicated in IT infrastructure and media. She graduated from The Communication University of Zhejiang and now works in Hangzhou. Send tips to

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