Will Renewable Energy Be the Solution to AI’s Massive Power Consumption?

TipsForTraders | April 1, 2024

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The rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence (AI) is not only a battleground for tech giants striving to establish dominance but also a significant driver of energy consumption. As these companies expand their AI infrastructure, the demand for power surges, unveiling unique investment prospects, particularly in the utilities sector. Aaron Dunn of Morgan Stanley Investment Management highlights this trend, pointing out the increasing strain on power and fiber resources as a primary hurdle for cloud computing and data centers integral to AI advancements. With his expertise steering the Morgan Stanley U.S. Value Fund and co-heading value equity, Dunn identifies this challenge as a pivotal opportunity, especially for utilities engaged in meeting the colossal energy demands of data centers.

Dunn’s analysis underscores a looming scarcity in power supply as data centers escalate their energy off-take from the grid. This surge is anticipated to place substantial demand on both municipal and public utilities, tasked with juggling the needs of retail consumers and the burgeoning industrial power requisites. His bullish stance on the utility sector is encapsulated in his recommendation of CMS Energy, a company at the forefront of renewable energy initiatives. This preference aligns with the green energy objectives of many leading tech firms, which are earnest in their pursuit to diminish carbon footprints through sustainable energy sources. Dunn posits that the shift towards renewable energy will markedly increase capacity within the United States, presenting utilities with a lucrative avenue for robust earnings growth and attractive returns.

In addition to CMS Energy, Dunn also spotlights Emerson Electric as another key player poised to benefit from the expanding energy needs of the AI sector. Serving as a portfolio manager for the Eaton Vance Focused Value Opportunities Fund, Dunn’s insights are grounded in a track record of surpassing benchmark performances in a majority of the past nine years. This strategic emphasis on utilities that champion renewable energy sources is timely, given the staggering energy consumption associated with AI servers. For instance, Nvidia’s AI servers alone are estimated by Bank of America to consume electricity equivalent to that of 20 million U.S. homes. Furthermore, data centers globally account for 1% to 2% of electricity usage, a figure expected to grow annually by 11% through 2030.

The intersection of AI development and energy demand presents a compelling narrative for investors. As the sector’s appetite for power intensifies, the focus shifts to utility companies, especially those invested in renewable energy, to fulfill this growing need. This scenario not only underscores the environmental considerations at play but also highlights the strategic investment opportunities within the utility sector, poised for significant growth in response to the AI-driven demand for energy. In conclusion, the drive towards AI and the subsequent energy demands it generates opens up a pivotal sector for investment, particularly in utilities focused on sustainability and renewable energy, promising a future of both technological advancement and environmental responsibility.