Could artificial intelligence power our energy future?

To many, the term “artificial intelligence” is confusing and slightly scary. Popular movies like The Terminator or The Matrix have used the phrase to refer to machines taking over the world and rebelling against their human masters.

But can artificial intelligence, or AI, actually power America’s energy future?

Thankfully, in real life, AI is not the beginning of a machine induced apocalypse, but holds incredible promise for managing our nation’s energy through free market innovation.

What exactly is artificial intelligence?

According to Merriam-Webster, AI is the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior. It has nothing to do with a machine becoming “self-aware” and then trying to free itself of human controls. In the case of energy, companies are beginning to study how to use aspects of AI to make complex decisions on energy supply and management.

As the nation’s energy grid becomes more and more complex, it requires an incredible amount of data to make the correct decisions as to energy supply and demand. Companies are beginning to use computers that have the ability to analyze all of the necessary data on energy grids at once. This will enable the computers to make the best-informed decisions in a short amount of time.

Companies are also using AI to determine how and where to best drill for oil and natural gas. These AI systems will be able to analyze maps and information and compile it in a way that a human would be unable to do. This will maximize safety and efficiency for our nation’s oil producers, bringing prices down for consumers. Chris Cheatwood of Pioneer Natural Resources says AI will “help narrow the outcomes on these wells.” This means that Pioneer will be able to spend all of their time and resources drilling in areas where they know oil and gas can be obtained from.

Still, a reality of relying on AI is not quite here yet. When referring to AI, Chris Shelton of the AES Corporation said “It’s similar to the dawn of the internet.” The technology is in its very early stages, and developers are just scratching the surface of its potential. Many tech companies are beginning to research how to implement the technology into their business, including GE, Siemens, Google, IBM, AES, Hazama Ando, as well as startups like App Orchid, Nex Tracker, Arria, Deep Mind, and Alpiq.

While there are many positives for managing energy with AI, some in the so-called “green” movement are also using the AI initiatives for a not-so-positive purpose. The problems with wind and solar energy are obvious, even to those who are pushing for full adoption of renewables. Wind and solar energy are dependent upon weather conditions, and often cannot handle peak demand periods. In addition, even when sun and wind are plentiful, the power sources sometimes produce excess energy that must be disposed of lest it overloads the regional power systems.

More and more people are also installing local solar panels on their homes. The aforementioned problems with renewables, combined with thousands and thousands of local energy source generators in the form of rooftop solar panels, is a recipe for chaos on an electric grid.

Companies eager to keep their renewable energy subsidy flow on tap are looking to AI as a means to better manage this chaos. Only a supercomputer able to “imitate intelligent human behavior” would be able to properly manage energy supply and demand in such a complex system as an energy grid fully reliant upon thousands of local solar structures.

The best solution to unreliable power is not expensive super computers, however, but using the energy that is the most reliable and plentiful: Fossil fuels.

With President Trump withdrawing from the Paris climate accord and unveiling new plans to push for energy independence in America through coal and fracking, the need for relying on AI to manage an inevitably disastrous energy grid may be a future we never come to.

Perhaps once the technology is developed—through the competition of capitalism—that allows renewable power to be properly stored, relying on AI technologies to manage the electric grid would be a good strategy for America’s energy future. But until then, it makes zero sense to force us off of fossil fuels. Places like Australia and Brussels have experienced massive power outages due to this push to rely on wind and solar thanks to the radical left.

America need not worry about the post-apocalyptic futures of AI as seen in Hollywood movies. And while AI technology is an exciting field, we need to remember that no super computer can provide more solid energy than good old fossil fuels. The true apocalypse we should be worried about is radical environmentalists and agenda driven politicians eliminating fossil fuels as the way to power our country.

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About the Author: Adam Houser

Adam Houser coordinates student leaders for CFACT's collegians program.

  • MichaelR

    LMAO. Only cfact could turn a topic about smart grids into a crusade in favour of fossil fuels. Sure, between “smart” and “stupid”, go ahead, choose stupid.
    If you are unaware of how unbelievably idiotic this notion is, just think about the Internet. How many times do you use a Google or Facebook or Amazon every day? The amount of computing power going into those systems completely dwarfs what is involved in smart grids. Sure handling millions of inputs requires smart coding, but Google is handling trillions of them all the time. Every time you enter a search and it tries to complete it for you, AI. Every time you put a photo in Facebook and it recognises faces to tag, AI. The list is endless.

    AI is not some monolithic thing. We can conceive of a “strong AI” that is capable of adapting to lots of completely different inputs and demands, but there is no such thing in reality.

    Modern AI is all extremely limited in scope, and in the context of power management, all it is there to do is spot patterns so it can predict what is going to happen next and balance supply and demand efficiently. That saves a lot of money, reduces bills for consumers and reduces pointless pollution.

    Dumb grids are by definition inefficient, more expensive and more polluting.