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Tech sector tries to address AI energy concerns

an illustration of a robot hand holding a stem of green leaves

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Tech companies are looking at various ways to manage the growing power demand of AI.

Why it matters: The soaring demand is both remaking energy markets and drawing outside criticism.

Driving the news: Salesforce released new suggestions Monday for policymakers around more sustainable AI, like requiring disclosure of the environmental impact.

  • Salesforce, which uses AI for its software, also suggested making AI-driven tech companies meet new energy efficiency standards.

In a separate and related announcement, Exowatt said it's raised a $20 million round from investors including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.

  • The startup, led by entrepreneur Hannan Parvizian, combines solar thermal tech with a thermal battery system and puts it in containers that can be deployed near data centers.
  • Like Salesforce, the Exowatt deal underscores AI's electricity demand and steps needed to keep the supply flowing and sustainable.

Catch up quick: Tech companies have also started looking at other new strategies like buying data centers near nuclear power plants and investigating ways pumped hydro could help support storing energy for AI demand.

  • Companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft have invested heavily into clean electricity for data centers, but with rising electricity demand and long queues for connecting solar and wind to the grid, the firms are being forced to rethink their strategies around how to get clean power.

Zoom in: Salesforce Director, Climate & Energy Megan Lorenzen tells Axios that "regulation has a critical role to play" both for environmental protections and for using AI to help with the climate crisis.

  • Salesforce is also asking policymakers to look at ways to use grants and tax incentives to support AI for the environment.

Bottom line: Tech companies are being forced to turn to creative measures to work on the difficult problem of finding new clean electricity.

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