Jan 7, 2020

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

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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

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Why India needs cheap batteries

Reproduced from IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new International Energy Agency analysis highlights the importance of battery storage paired with renewables in helping to decarbonize power.

Why it matters: India, the focus of the analysis, is the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter (after China and the U.S.) and suffers from terrible air quality problems.

Go deeperArrowJan 28, 2020

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by estimated 2.1% in 2019

Power lines in California in 2019. Photo: Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.1% in 2019 due to a decrease in national coal consumption, according to estimates from the Rhodium Group released Tuesday.

Why it matters: Power generated from coal plants fell by a record 18%, and overall emissions from the power section declined by almost 10% — despite an increase in emissions from natural gas.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020

EIA predicts renewables will become largest U.S. electricity source before 2050

Reproduced from EIA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Energy Department's data arm is more favorable on renewables' long-term future than it was a year ago, but its central analysis might still be badly underestimating the tech's trajectory.

Driving the news: The Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook released yesterday shows power from renewables overtaking natural gas as the nation's largest electricity source in about 15 years.

Go deeperArrowJan 30, 2020