UK awards £1.73M to AI projects to advance net zero goals

Great! Just ignore the energy needed to train them, process queries, keep the lights on in datacenters ...

As the world struggles to keep up with decarbonization pledges, the UK government is dumping £1.73 million ($2.2 million) into a series of AI projects to help it meet 2050 net zero goals.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is funding eight projects at universities and private companies focusing on three themes: generation, demand, transmission and distribution of electricity; transport decarbonization; and land use for renewables. 

"AI is the defining technology of our generation and the UK is harnessing its enormous potential to … tackle shared global challenges, particularly climate change," said minister for AI Viscount Camrose Jonathan Berry. "This funding backs brilliant British innovation to drive forward new AI solutions which will help us reach our net zero ambitions."

Among the particulars of the funding are an AI project to improve weather forecasting, which itself is designed to help renewable energy management; using AI to identify projects eligible for green finance funding; analyzing traffic and electric fleet charging to cut transport emissions; and putting AI to the task of suggesting appropriate low-carbon technologies for construction projects, among others. 

Fire up the power plants - we have net zero goals to save

As AI keeps getting more powerful and the chips that run them keep getting larger there's a major element of the equation that often gets overlooked: these things guzzle power and water like neither are finite or threatened resources. 

Creating a single AI image, for example, was estimated to require the same amount of energy it takes to charge a smartphone, and that's not to mention what it takes to train the things. Even older AI models like GPT-3 emit the carbon equivalent of driving a car to the Moon and back - a round trip of around 480,000 miles - to train. 

Training aside, researchers estimate that AI energy usage could eventually reach the levels of entire countries just for processing answers to queries. In one study researchers estimated that, were Google's search results to become entirely LLM-generated, the global energy footprint could equal the energy consumption of Ireland

The UK may be making more progress than some nations, but it's also not on track to meet its net-zero emissions goals, with the National Audit Office saying last year that the nation needs to double low-carbon investments so as not to fall further behind. The US is lagging even further, with most cities planning net-zero transitions in the States also likely to fail to meet targets.

Whether more AI will help solve the problem is debatable, but at least one US think tank has argued AI will help address climate change. Of course, that think tank is backed by companies like Microsoft, Google and others taking big bets on AI, so your mileage may vary. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like