Electricity demand in the U.S. has seen no growth since 2007, even though during that time “[t] he U.S. economy has grown 8 percent,” according to Katherine Tweed at IEEE Spectrum. Data centers, however, are an industry with a growing appetite for electricity, consuming an increasing portion each year. Tweed paints a picture of energy-efficiency improvements as the source of this break between economic growth and energy usage. “Although the trend has been going on for nearly a decade, the slowdown or rollback of energy efficiency policies, especially at the state government level, could mean the flat line representing electricity use will start to creep back up in the coming years.”
At first glance, this explanation seems plausible, but the notion that an increasingly energy-based (we regularly hear about IT and robotics being a huge threat to jobs) economy is becoming less energy intensive is troublesome. In addition, it is curious that the Jevons paradox/Khazzoom-Brookes postulate seems to have no applicability to the supposed growth in efficiency in this case. Perhaps what this situation indicates is not so much that energy-efficiency fever has gripped the U.S. (although, no doubt, efficiency plays some role), but that the official numbers of GDP growth, for instance, are hogwash. As the Data Center Journal has noted on more than one occasion, each dollar of GDP growth has been financed by at least one dollar of federal debt growth. Perhaps the stagnant demand for electricity points less to efficiency improvements (as beneficial as those might be) and more to shady accounting.
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