Running Data Centres: How To Keep Powering the Backbone of AI

Data centres are the backbone of the modern digital economy, enabling everything from cloud computing to AI-driven applications.  

However, their rapid proliferation and the exponential growth in demand for their services are raising significant concerns about energy consumption and its impact on national grids. 

We previously analysed how AI can help the UK energy sector.  

Now, it is time to see how the energy sector can ensure that the backbone of AI, datacentres, runs smoothly and sustainably. 

Futureproofing data centres’ energy consumption 

A recent report highlights a critical aspect of this growth: the substantial increase in energy consumption by data centres.  

In the Chicago area alone, power demand from data centres is expected to increase ninefold, with projected consumption reaching 5 GW, up from the current 400 MW. 

The United Kingdom faces a similar challenge. According to John Pettigrew, CEO of the UK’s National Grid, data centre power consumption in Britain is on track to grow by a staggering 500 percent over the next decade. 

This surge in demand is driven by the increasing adoption of AI technologies, the proliferation of internet-connected devices, and the rise of data-intensive applications across industries. 

The projected increase in power demand will inevitably put pressure on the existing electrical infrastructure.  

Initially, these new data centres will rely on excess capacity from the regional grid and imported electricity.  

However, as demand grows, there will be a critical need for new sources of power generation and infrastructure upgrades. 

How to prepare for the future demand? Infrastructure Upgrades

One approach to managing the increased power demands of data centres is the construction of an ultra-high voltage onshore transmission network.  

This new network would enable bulk power transfers across the country, supporting the connection of large energy sources to major demand centres and reducing the strain on existing infrastructure. 

Renewable and Nuclear Energy

To ensure a sustainable energy supply, there is a need for a mix of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, along with nuclear power.  

The UK has set ambitious net-zero targets, aiming to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.  

Nuclear energy, with its capability to provide a stable and large-scale power supply, presents a viable option to meet the high energy demands of AI technologies while reducing carbon emissions.  

The development of small modular reactors (SMRs) can offer a scalable solution to support the UK’s net-zero goals. 

Energy Efficiency Innovations 

Data centres will need to adopt more efficient operational practices to mitigate the impact on energy consumption.  

This includes the use of advanced cooling technologies, energy-efficient hardware, and AI-driven optimisations that can significantly reduce the energy footprint of these facilities.  

By improving energy efficiency, data centres can lower operational costs and contribute to sustainability efforts. 

In addition, the adoption of energy management technologies like ClearVUE.Zero can support businesses in achieving their net-zero targets by providing real-time insights into energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

Regulatory and Policy Measures

The UK government has already introduced various decarbonisation and energy efficiency policies.  

Learning from the regulatory measures in Ireland, Germany, and Malta, the UK can further refine its policies to ensure that new data centre builds are sustainable and energy efficient. 


The anticipated increase in power demand from data centres due to AI adoption highlights the urgent need for innovative and sustainable energy solutions.  

As the industry explores alternatives like nuclear energy, infrastructure upgrades, and strives to improve operational efficiencies, it is essential to balance the growth of AI technologies with responsible energy consumption practices. By doing so, we can reap the benefits of AI without compromising our environmental and energy sustainability goals.  

The path forward will require a collaborative effort between energy providers, policymakers, and the tech industry to create a resilient and efficient energy ecosystem. 

For data centres looking to manage their energy consumption and carbon emissions more effectively, solutions like those offered by ClearVUE.Business can be instrumental.  

ClearVUE.Zero provides advanced energy and carbon management tools, enabling businesses to monitor, measure, and optimise their energy use in real-time. This platform helps organisations achieve their net-zero targets by providing critical data insights and simplifying compliance with energy reporting requirements.  

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