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Big Tech data centers probably aren't a climate change time bomb

Data: Reproduced from an International Energy Agency report; Chart: Axios Visuals

An International Energy Agency analysis pushes back against concerns that data centers are a ticking carbon bomb as use of web-connected devices expands.

Where it stands: Power use by data centers consumes about 1% of global power (which isn't trivial in a world of still-rising emissions) and has changed little since 2015, they report.

The big picture: "Electricity demand from data centers globally is expected to remain flat to 2021, despite a projected 50% increase in data centre workloads," the analysts note.

How it works: The report notes there's a movement toward more "hyperscale" data centers that use proportionally less energy for cooling, as well more efficient servers and other hardware.

  • And aside from the levels of power use, the source of that power for data centers is getting cleaner as tech giants like Google, Amazon, Apple and others ramp up their renewables procurement.

But, but, but: It's a glass half-full set of findings. For one thing, it's still a big source of power demand at a time when global emissions are still rising.

  • And the report also notes that these "hyperscale" data centers can have "major impacts on local power grids" and drive up local rates.

Go deeper: The decade that blew up energy predictions