Jevons’ Paradox Highlights Potential Surge in AI Electricity Consumption

by Manuel Costa
fokus keyword: AI energy consumption

While artificial intelligence (AI) provides manifold advantages, its integration could lead to considerable energy demands, as indicated by a recent study. AI models that generate content, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, are notorious for their high energy usage both during training and active usage. Efforts are in place globally to augment AI’s energy efficacy. However, heightened efficiency might inadvertently lead to amplified demand because of Jevons’ Paradox. By 2027, projections indicate that AI’s energy consumption might equate to the total electricity use of entire countries. The research underscores the imperative of judicious AI utilization given its energy-heavy character.

Artificial intelligence promises to boost the efficiency of tasks ranging from coding for developers to ensuring safer driving conditions and streamlining daily activities. Yet, a recent commentary in the journal Joule by Digiconomist’s founder illustrates that AI’s large-scale adoption might result in a substantial energy footprint, possibly surpassing the electricity needs of certain nations in the future.

“As AI service demand escalates, there’s a strong likelihood that its associated energy usage will see a marked increase in the forthcoming years,” remarks Alex de Vries, a doctoral student at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

From 2022 onward, generative AI, capable of producing texts, visuals, or other content types, has seen accelerated development, with OpenAI’s ChatGPT being a prominent example. The training phase of such AI necessitates a vast influx of data, a procedure demanding significant energy. New York’s AI firm, Hugging Face, has noted that its multilingual content-generation AI utilized approximately 433 megawatt-hours (MWH) for training – equivalent to the yearly power consumption of 40 typical American residences.

Furthermore, AI’s energy implications extend beyond just training. De Vries’ evaluation indicates that AI’s deployment in real-world tasks, such as content generation based on cues, demands hefty computing power and, consequently, energy. As a case in point, ChatGPT’s daily operations could require as much as 564 MWh of energy.

In a bid to reduce AI’s energy imprint, global corporations are focusing on refining the efficiency of AI systems, both hardware, and software. Nevertheless, de Vries points out that augmenting machine efficiency can often drive demand up, resulting in a net uptick in resource consumption, a trend termed as Jevons’ Paradox.

Making these tools more streamlined and widely accessible might inadvertently lead to their expanded application and a broader user base, as per de Vries. Google’s current endeavors exemplify this trend as the tech giant integrates generative AI in its email services and explores its potential in their search engine operations, which handles nearly 9 billion queries daily. Drawing from this data, de Vries estimates that AI’s incorporation in every Google search could necessitate around 29.2 TWh of power annually – an amount on par with Ireland’s yearly electricity consumption.

Such an intensive scenario may not materialize imminently due to the substantial costs tied to AI server expansions and the existing supply chain constraints. Yet, forecasts suggest a rapid surge in AI server production in the coming years. Electricity consumption related to AI could witness an increase of 85 to 134 TWh per year by 2027, mirroring the annual energy usage of nations like the Netherlands, Argentina, or Sweden. Enhanced AI efficiency might prompt developers to adapt specific computer chips for AI applications, potentially elevating AI’s energy demand further.

De Vries emphasizes, “Given its significant energy footprint, it’s paramount to exercise caution in AI deployments. Employing it indiscriminately in unnecessary applications would be counterproductive.”

Reference: “The growing energy footprint of artificial intelligence” by Alex de Vries, 10 October 2023, Joule.
DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2023.09.004

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword: AI energy consumption

What does the recent study indicate about AI’s energy consumption?

The study highlights that the energy demands of artificial intelligence (AI) could reach levels comparable to the total electricity use of entire countries by 2027.

What is Jevons’ Paradox and how is it related to AI?

Jevons’ Paradox is the phenomenon where increased efficiency in a resource’s use leads to a rise in its overall consumption. In the context of AI, while there are global efforts to improve AI’s energy efficiency, the resulting increased efficiency might boost demand, inadvertently leading to higher energy consumption.

How energy-intensive is the training phase for generative AI models?

Training generative AI models, such as those that produce texts or visuals, demands a considerable amount of energy. For instance, Hugging Face’s multilingual content-generation AI consumed around 433 megawatt-hours (MWH) for training, which is equivalent to the annual power needs of 40 average American homes.

Are companies taking steps to improve the energy efficiency of AI?

Yes, companies worldwide are working on refining the efficiency of AI systems, both in terms of hardware and software. Their aim is to make AI tools less energy-intensive.

How might Google’s use of AI impact energy consumption?

Google is integrating generative AI into services like email and is considering using AI in its search engine operations, which handles nearly 9 billion queries daily. If every Google search incorporated AI, it could require approximately 29.2 TWh of power annually, comparable to Ireland’s yearly electricity consumption.

Is there a potential for AI’s energy consumption to surpass current projections?

While the immediate, intensive scenario of AI consumption is not anticipated due to high associated costs and supply chain constraints, the production of AI servers is expected to grow rapidly. By 2027, AI-related electricity consumption might increase between 85 to 134 TWh annually, similar to the energy usage of countries like the Netherlands, Argentina, or Sweden.

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Mike D. October 12, 2023 - 12:14 pm

just read this and it’s kinda scary how much energy AI’s gonna use in the future, no? We need to think this through…

RajeshK October 12, 2023 - 6:30 pm

its amazing what AI can do but at what cost Energy prices are already sky high and this wont help.

Linda M October 12, 2023 - 7:07 pm

So basically, while we’re making things more efficient, we might end up using even more resources? thats ironic.

TomP October 12, 2023 - 11:51 pm

Never heard of Hugging Face before but consuming power of 40 homes just for training? thats crazy. AI needs to get its act together.

JennaS October 13, 2023 - 4:38 am

didnt realize the whole efficiency thing could actually backfire cause of that Jevons’ thingy. Learned something new today.


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