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Japan Seeks Power To Turn Down Private Home Air Conditioners Remotely

As reported by Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun, in a meeting on Nov 2, the Energy Conservation Subcommittee of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry resolved to begin working group discussions with the aim of gaining the ability to remotely turn down privately owned air conditioner/heater units. The goal would be to decrease energy usage during expected power shortages, which the committee feels are a growing concern as Japan attempts to shift towards renewable energy sources such as solar power, where the amount generated can be affected by day-to-day climate, making it difficult to stabilize the amount of total power available. The ministry says that AC unit usage accounts for roughly 30 percent of household electricity consumption in Japan.

From a technical standpoint, the plan wouldn’t be particularly difficult to implement. Japanese air conditioner units have long had remote controls, so external inputs aren’t a problem, and many models now allow the owner to turn the system on and off or adjust temperature settings through the internet. By asking manufacturers to extend such access to government regulatory organizations, and granting those organizations override functions over other inputs, the plan could easily be put into practice for internet-connected AC units, and water heaters are another home appliance the committee is looking to gain the ability to throttle back. […] According to Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the committee is currently working under the concept that the government would only be able to turn down AC units if their individual owners have agreed, in advance, to grant that authority.

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Europe Braces For Mobile Network Blackouts

Russia’s decision to halt gas supplies via Europe’s key supply route in the wake of the Ukraine conflict has increased the chances of power shortages. In France, the situation is made worse by several nuclear power plants shutting down for maintenance. Telecoms industry officials say they fear a severe winter will put Europe’s telecoms infrastructure to the test, forcing companies and governments to try to mitigate the impact. Currently there are not enough back-up systems in many European countries to handle widespread power cuts, four telecoms executives said, raising the prospect of mobile phone outages.

European Union countries, including France, Sweden and Germany, are trying to ensure communications can continue even if power cuts end up exhausting back-up batteries installed on the thousands of cellular antennas spread across their territory. Europe has nearly half a million telecom towers and most of them have battery backups that last around 30 minutes to run the mobile antennas. […] Telecom gear makers Nokia and Ericsson are working with mobile operators to mitigate the impact of a power shortage. The European telecom operators must review their networks to reduce extra power usage and modernize their equipment by using more power efficient radio designs, the four telecom executives said. To save power, telecom companies are using software to optimize traffic flow, make towers “sleep” when not in use and switch off different spectrum bands. The telecom operators are also working with national governments to check if plans are in place to maintain critical services.

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom has 33,000 mobile radio sites (towers) and its mobile emergency power systems can only support a small number of them at the same time, a company spokesperson said. Deutsche Telekom will use mobile emergency power systems which mainly rely on diesel in the event of prolonged power failures, it said. France has about 62,000 mobile towers, and the industry will not be able to equip all antennas with new batteries, the FFT’s president Liza Bellulo said. Accustomed to uninterrupted power supply for decades, European countries usually do not have generators backing up power for longer durations.

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Too Many Servers Could Mean No New Homes In Parts of the UK

Data centers have caused skyrocketing power demand in parts of London. Now, new housing construction could be banned for more than a decade in some neighborhoods of the UK’s biggest city because the electricity grid is reaching capacity, as first reported on by the Financial Times. The reason: too many data centers are taking up too much electricity and hogging available fiber optic cables. The Financial Times obtained multiple letters sent from the city’s government, the Greater London Authority (GLA), to developers. “Major new applicants to the distribution network… including housing developments, commercial premises and industrial activities will have to wait several years to receive new electricity connections,” said one note, according to the news outlet.

The GLA also confirmed the grid issue to Gizmodo in an email, and sent along text from one of the letters, which noted that for some areas utilities are saying “electricity connections will not be available for their sites until 2027 to 2030.” Though the Financial Times reported that at least one letter indicated making the necessary electric grid updates in London could take up until 2035. […] “Data centres use large quantities of electricity, the equivalent of towns or small cities, to power servers and ensure resilience in service,” one of the GLA letters seen by the Financial Times reportedly said. […] Developers are “still getting their heads round this, but our basic understanding is that developments of 25 units or more will be affected. Our understanding is that you just can’t build them,” said David O’Leary, policy director at the Home Builders Federation, a trade body. Combined, those sections of London contain about 5,000 homes and make up about 11% of the city’s housing supply, according the Financial Times.

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As US Crypto Mining Surges, Lawmakers Demand Disclosure of Emissions and Energy Data

The world has changed since China banned cryptomining, the Guardian reports. And now “more than a third of the global computing power dedicated to mining bitcoin comes from the US, Senator Elizabeth Warren and five other Democrats reported in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency…”

But the Guardian also notes there’s two problems with this:
– The largest US cryptomining companies have the capacity to use as much electricity as nearly every home in Houston, Texas; energy use that is contributing to rising utility bills, according to an investigation by Democratic lawmakers…

– “The results of our investigation … are disturbing … revealing that cryptominers are large energy users that account for a significant — and rapidly growing — amount of carbon emissions,” the letter states.

“It is imperative that your agencies work together to address the lack of information about cryptomining’s energy use and environmental impacts.” The congressional Democrats have asked the EPA and the Department of Energy to require cryptominers to disclose emissions and energy use, noting that regulators know little about the full environmental impact of the industry….

The power demands of the industry are also coming at a cost to consumers, the letter states, citing a study that found cryptomining operations in upstate New York led to a rise in electric bills by roughly $165m for small businesses and $79m for individuals.

The main operator of Texas’s grid admitted this week to the Verge that by 2026 crypto mining is set to increase demand on the state’s power grid by a whopping 27 gigawatts — or nearly a third of the grid’s current maximum capacity.

And an associate professor at Rochester Institute of Technology with a background in electricity system policy warns the site that “The more crypto mining that comes into the state, the higher the residents should expect the electricity prices to become.”

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Bitcoin-Mining “Hurting” [sic] Texas’ Power Grid

“Record-breaking heat across Texas has pushed its fragile power grid to the brink,” reports NBC News. “But extreme temperatures are doing something else in the famously pro-business state: stirring opposition to energy-guzzling crypto miners who’ve flocked there seeking low-cost energy and a deregulatory stance.”

Ten industrial-scale crypto miners will consume an estimated 18 gigawatts in years to come — though the state’s current capacity is around 80 gigawatts (though it’s expected to grow).

The case against them?
The energy crypto miners use puts “an almost unprecedented burden” on the Texas grid, according to Ben Hertz-Shargel, global head of Grid Edge, a unit of Wood Mackenzie, an energy consulting firm. Mining “pushes the system closer to dangerous system peaks at all times,” he told NBC News. “It is completely inessential and consuming physical resources, time and money that should be going to decarbonize and strengthen the grid….”

Unlike other electricity systems, the Texas grid does not connect to other states’ grids; that means it cannot receive power from other areas in emergencies. Because of their high demand for electricity, crypto miners raise costs for other consumers of power, Hertz-Shargel said. And, on the Texas grid, miners can get paid for powering down during peak demand periods, like the one that recently hit the state. Miners and other industrial customers with these types of arrangements receive revenues for not using electricity; the costs of those revenues are passed on to other electricity customers…. During peak periods, miners can also resell to the grid the electricity they would otherwise have used. Because their contracts can let them buy power at low cost, energy resales when demand is high can generate significant financial benefits in the form of credits against future use….

Electricity customers across the state will cover those credits, said Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. “Ratepayers in Texas are going to be paying it off a little bit every month for decades,” Dessler said. “It angers me so much.”

But Lee Bratcher, founder of the Texas Blockchain Council, makes the case for industrial-scale bitcoin mines:
Bratcher and the crypto miners he represents say they provide three benefits to Texas. Because they can turn off their electricity use during high-demand periods, they can help stabilize the grid and rein in runaway power prices. “Power pricing is set off at peaks and the miners are specifically trying to turn off during peaks,” he said. In addition, crypto miners’ 24/7 demand for electricity can provide an incentive for wind and solar developers to bring more green power to the grid while new jobs and tax revenues “lead to orders of magnitude of human flourishing in communities where the mines set up,” Bratcher said.

Still, 800 locals have signed a petition against plans to built America’s largest bitcoin-mining facility — a facility which will consume 1.4 million gallons of water a day and 1 gigawatt of electricity (enough to power 200,000 homes).
Jackie Sawicky, a small-business owner, is organizing the opposition to the Riot facility. “There are over 7,000 people in poverty and 8,000 seniors living on fixed incomes here,” she told NBC News. “We cannot afford increased water costs and electricity.”

According to a 2020 economic impact report commissioned by the Rockdale Municipal Development District, an entity run by area businesspeople, the facility will deliver an estimated $28.5 million in economic benefits to the community over 10 years. The operation employs “nearly 200 full-time benefited employees…”

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What Happens When Big Tech’s Datacenters Come to Small Towns?

Few big tech companies that are building and hiring across America bring that wealth with them when they set up in new communities. Instead, they hire armies of low-paid contractors, many of whom are not guaranteed a job from one month to the next; some of the contracting companies have a history of alleged mistreatment of workers. Nor do local governments share in the companies’ wealth; instead, the tech giants negotiate deals — the details protected by non-disclosure agreements — that exempt them from paying taxes that would fund schools, roads and fire departments….

Globally, by the end of 2020, there were nearly 600 “hyperscale” data centers, where a single company runs thousands of servers and rents out cloud space to customers. That’s more than double the number from 2015. Amazon, Google and Microsoft account for more than half of those hyperscale centers, making data centers one more field dominated by America’s richest and biggest companies… Google in March said it was “investing in America” with a plan to spend $7 billion across 19 states to build more data centers and offices. Microsoft said in April that it plans to build 50 to 100 data centers each year for the foreseeable future. Amazon recently got approval to build 1.75 million square feet of data-center space in Northern Virginia, beyond the 50 data centers it already operates there. Facebook said this year it would spend billions to expand data centers in Iowa, Georgia and Utah; in March it said it was adding an 11th building to its largest data-center facility in rural Prineville, Oregon…

Facebook has spent more than $2 billion expanding its operations in Prineville, but because of the tax incentives it negotiated with local officials, the company paid a total of just $119,403.42 in taxes to Crook County last year, according to the County Assessor’s list of top taxpayers. That’s less than half the taxes paid by Brasada Ranch, a local resort. And according to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the data center has been the subject of numerous labor complaints… “I’ve spent way too much of my life watching city councils say, ‘We need a big tech company to show that we’re future-focused,'” says Sebastian Moss, the editor of Data Center Dynamics, which tracks the industry. Towns will give away tax breaks worth hundreds of millions of dollars, his reporting has found, and then express gratitude toward tech companies that have donated a few thousand computers — worth a fraction of the tax breaks — to their cash-strapped school systems. “I sometimes wonder if they’re preying on desperation, going to places that are struggling.”

Communities give up more than tax breaks when they welcome tech companies. Data centers use huge amounts of water to cool computer equipment, yet they’re being built in the drought-stricken American West.

The article cites Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that 373,300 Americans were working in data processing, hosting, and related services in June — up 52% from 10 years ago.

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Data Centres Exacerbate Droughts

A data center can easily use up to 1.25 million gallons of water each day — and “More data centers are being built every day by some of America’s largest technology companies,” reports NBC News, “including Amazon, Microsoft and Google and used by millions of customers.”

Almost 40 percent of them are in the United States, and Amazon, Google and Microsoft account for more than half of the total. The U.S. also has at least 1,800 “colocation” data centers, warehouses filled with a variety of smaller companies’ server hardware that share the same cooling system, electricity and security, according to Data Center Map. They are typically smaller than hyperscale data centers but, research has shown, more resource intensive as they maintain a variety of computer systems operating at different levels of efficiency.

Many data center operators are drawn to water-starved regions in the West, in part due to the availability of solar and wind energy. Researchers at Virginia Tech estimate that one-fifth of data centers draw water from moderately to highly stressed watersheds, mostly in the Western United States, according to a paper published in April…

The growth in the industry shows no signs of slowing. The research company Gartner predicts that spending on global data center infrastructure will reach $200 billion this year, an increase of 6 percent from 2020, followed by 3-4 percent annually over the next three years. This growth comes at a time of record temperatures and drought in the United States, particularly in the West. “The typical data center uses about 3-5 million gallons of water per day — the same amount of water as a city of 30,000-50,000 people,” said Venkatesh Uddameri, professor and director of the Water Resources Center at Texas Tech University. Although these data centers have become much more energy and water efficient over the last decade, and don’t use as much water as other industries such as agriculture, this level of water use can still create potential competition with local communities over the water supply in areas where water is scarce, he added…

Sergio Loureiro, vice president of core operations for Microsoft, said that the company has pledged to be “water positive” by 2030, which means it plans to replenish more water than it consumes globally. This includes reducing the company’s water use and investing in community replenishment and conservation projects near where it builds facilities.

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.

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Samsung Chip Output at South Korea Plant Partly Halted Due To 1-Minute Electricity Glitch

A 1-minute power glitch on Tuesday, December 31, partially shut down Samsung chip production at its Hwaseong chip complex in South Korea for “two or three days”. DRAM and NAND lines were affected. Preliminary inspections show “no major damage” but losses are still expected to be in the millions.

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Why Energy Is A Big And Rapidly Growing Problem For Data Centers

U.S. data centers use more than 90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, requiring roughly 34 giant (500-megawatt) coal-powered plants. Global data centers used roughly 416 terawatts (4.16 x 1014 watts) (or about 3% of the total electricity) last year, nearly 40% more than the entire United Kingdom. And this consumption will double every four years.

Streaming video has already changed the game, but the explosion of artificial intelligence and internet-connected devices will change the entire landscape. AI is the future, and AI is hungry for processing power. IoT is projected to exceed 20 billion devices by 2020 (some analysts believe we will reach that number this year alone). Given there are currently 10 billion internet-connected devices, doubling that to 20 billion will require massive increases to our data center infrastructure, which will massively increase our electricity consumption.

How on earth can we possibly build all the power plants required to supply electricity to twice as many data centers in the next four years? The simple answer is that we can’t.

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Bitcoin Mining Now Accounts For Almost One Percent of the World’s Energy Consumption

It is well-established established that Bitcoin mining — aka, donating one’s computing power to keep a cryptocurrency network up and running in exchange for a chance to win some free crypto — uses a lot of electricity. Companies involved in large-scale mining operations know that this is a problem, and they’ve tried to employ various solutions for making the process more energy efficient.

But, according to testimony provided by Princeton computer scientist Arvind Narayanan to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, no matter what you do to make cryptocurrency mining harware greener, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the overall network’s flabbergasting energy consumption. Instead, Narayanan told the committee, the only thing that really determines how much energy Bitcoin uses is its price. “If the price of a cryptocurrency goes up, more energy will be used in mining it; if it goes down, less energy will be used,” he told the committee. “Little else matters. In particular, the increasing energy efficiency of mining hardware has essentially no impact on energy consumption.”

In his testimony, Narayanan estimates that Bitcoin mining now uses about five gigawatts of electricity per day (in May, estimates of Bitcoin power consumption were about half of that). He adds that when you’ve got a computer racing with all its might to earn a free Bitcoin, it’s going to be running hot as hell, which means you’re probably using even more electricity to keep the computer cool so it doesn’t die and/or burn down your entire mining center, which probably makes the overall cost associated with mining even higher.

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Bitcoin driving huge electricity demand, environmental impact

In a normal year, demand for electric power in Chelan County grows by perhaps 4 megawatts ­­— enough for around 2,250 homes — as new residents arrive and as businesses start or expand. But since January 2017, as Bitcoin enthusiasts bid up the price of the currency, eager miners have requested a staggering 210 megawatts for mines they want to build in Chelan County. That’s nearly as much as the county and its 73,000 residents were already using. And because it is a public utility, the PUD staff is obligated to consider every request.

The scale of some new requests is mind-boggling. Until recently, the largest mines in Chelan County used five megawatts or less. In the past six months, by contrast, miners have requested loads of 50 megawatts and, in several cases, 100 megawatts. By comparison, a fruit warehouse uses around 2.5 megawatts.

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