Leading voices from across the energy and technology sectors are calling on the government to support the establishment of an International Centre for AI, Energy and Climate that would help accelerate the development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to meet the objectives set out in the Paris climate deal.
The groups, which include Energy UK, techUK, National Grid Electricity System Operator, Energy Data Taskforce, OVO Energy and Octopus Energy, believe fundamental advances in AI achieved over the last decade offer opportunities to increase the efficiency of energy systems and address a wide array of climate change challenges.
The organisations have written a letter to Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, International Development Secretary Alok Sharma and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Nicky Morgan, which has also been signed by environmental groups Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and E3G.
Leading academics, including Alex Rogers, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Oxford, Emily Shuckburgh, Director of the Carbon Neutral Futures Initiative at the University of Cambridge and Dimitri Zenghelis Visiting Research Fellow at the LSE, have also supported the proposals.
The letter states AI will not only be a useful tool but will become “essential” as a much more complex system and the data it provides are managed, whether in relation to solar and wind forecasting, grid optimisation, battery management or demand side response (DSR).
In addition, the organisations and academics believe AI offers opportunities to allow for more fundamental shifts to new system designs.
The letter adds: “The opportunity for AI to support to support the zero carbon transition is international. Recent analysis suggests AI can help reduce global emissions by up to 4% against business as usual by 2030, whilst concurrently supporting an increase to global GDP of 4.4%.
“Whilst there are some exciting initiatives underway in this field, the regulated nature of energy systems creates barriers to the application of AI. Data sharing models and market structures developed for an analogue system need updating. Overcoming these challenges could unlock the potential for AI to systemically improve the efficiency of energy systems worldwide and help address wider climate challenges.”
The organisations are therefore proposing an international centre to advise governments on AI-friendly policy frameworks and data access, to facilitate the involvement of the machine learning community in the sector, to provide bespoke innovation funding to accelerate deployment and support start-ups in this space.
They say while private companies will develop the solutions needed, government must lead to ensure policies and funding are designed “for the public good”, taking into account any social implications of the adoption of AI technology.
A government spokesperson said: “The UK is a world-leader in artificial intelligence and the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050.
“We continue to work with international partners to realise the full potential of how artificial intelligence technologies can be used to tackle climate change, backed by investment in groundbreaking scientific research.”