NVIDIA CEO: AI Will Impact the Future of Energy

The future of energy may depend on technology with roots in the video game industry, by a company founded more than 30 years ago that wanted to use accelerated computing to improve the look and feel of the gaming experience.

Jensen Huang, NVIDIA’s CEO and president since co-founding the Santa Clara, California-based company in 1993, said “we were always looking for ways to get the adoption of accelerated computing in more applications” as he talked about advanced computing and artificial intelligence (AI) during a keynote session at Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI’s) 2024 conference. The event at the Fontainebleau Las Vegas hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, began June 18 and runs through June 20.

EEI, organized in 1933, is an association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies.

Pedro Pizarro, president and CEO of Edison International, the parent of Southern California Edison, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, introduced Huang and reminded the NVIDIA founder of a remark he made several years ago about his company being “30 days from going out of business.”

“That was just an observation,” joked Huang, wearing his trademark leather jacket during his talk Tuesday that kicked off the EEI event. Forbes reported that Huang’s net worth increased by more than $4 billion on Tuesday, as the company’s stock continues its meteoric rise, making NVIDIA the world’s most valuable public company. Forbes said Huang is now the 11th-richest person in the world, with a net worth of about $119 billion.

Demand for Electricity Rising

Pizarro told the crowd, “We are seeing electricity demand, which had been fairly flat for many years, now really taking off.  This has given you a unique perspective about the intersection between the energy industry and the technology industry.”

“My guess is energy consumption goes up quite substantially,” said Huang. “The implication of the [artificial] intelligence that is created will reduce waste, and, hopefully, less carbon. This will, hopefully, create greater productivity and increase the size of industries. I think the future of intelligence is quite high, and then the future of energy is quite high.”

Jensen Huang (left), CEO of NVIDIA, and Pedro Pizarro of Edison International discuss the future of power generation during the opening keynote session of EEI’s 2024 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Source: Darrell Proctor

Huang said his company’s growth is tied to “always looking for ways to get the adoption of accelerated computing in more applications. The first thing that we’re doing is that we’re accelerating every application we can. And when we accelerate an application, not only do we speed it up, we reduce the cost of computing, we reduce the energy consumed by a lot.”

Huang told the EEI audience that his company, which designs and supplies chips, systems, and software for a variety of markets, including AI and increasingly energy, always follows this mantra: “The great decision that we make, when you see something important, you have to ask, ‘But why? What are the interesting problems that we need to solve?’ We just kept up with that, and expanded the power of computing by about a million X.”

Digitization Driving the Industry

The digitization of the power generation sector means NVIDIA is having a greater impact on electric utilities and the energy industry. Said Huang, “One day AI researchers realized you could scrape the Internet for the whole of human knowledge, and that brought ChatGPT,” the chatbot and virtual assistant launched in late 2022. “Computing had been using a general purpose approach for years, and we now know that using a general purpose tool is not energy efficient. We knew that when we make something more efficient, and cost-effective, the usage will go up.”

Huang said that “digital intelligence has so much value to humanity … it’s going to be the next big driver of energy consumption. AI doesn’t care where it goes to school. You can create energy on the grid, off the grid, and away from the grid. That’s the future.”

Pizarro noted how utilities are benefiting from smart meter technology, and the use of AI in their operations. He said it’s enabling power generators to design systems “connecting power supply to power demand.”

“Today’s energy consumption is limited,” said Huang. “The limits of that consumption is indexed to population, but the value of intelligence is indexed to industry. And you have to answer the question, ‘What percentage of industrial intelligence if of value?’ Like previous industrial revolutions, this industrial revolution is going to drive productivity like never before. Huang added that industry can get less waste, and greater productivity from digital intelligence, which will “make the energy industry more efficient.” He said AI will replace some industry jobs, but it create many more.

“Most companies that I know, when they become more productive … they become more profitable and hire more people. It’s very rare that industries pair profitability with layoffs,” he said.

Huang added, though, that “the greatest impact will be applying AI to the delivery of the energy.” He noted his  company is working with EEI, Utilidata, and Oregon utility Portland General Electric on the integration of AI to the power grid. “In a lot of ways, your power networks are going to become like app stores, like Uber, connecting power supply to users,” in the same way Uber connects drivers to riders seeking a destination.

Said Pizarro, noting NVIDIA’s influence in driving innovative technology: “We have a lot more advancement to do, and we look forward to partnering with NVIDIA on the future.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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