Natural gas is powering AI and EV innovation

Energy demand driven by large data centers, AI and electric vehicles is accelerating demand for natural gas to unprecedented levels.

Natural gas will be critical to meeting surging baseload capacity and backing up renewable sources of energy, Williams President and CEO Alan Armstrong told industry analysts recently.

“Electricity demand is experiencing three times faster growth per year this decade than what we’ve seen in previous decades, driven by the increase in electric vehicles and emergence of new, large-load data centers,” Williams President and CEO Alan Armstrong told analysts this month.

“This is a major shift for our country, and it’s a major shift for the natural gas market to be able to keep up with this,” he said. “We are projecting that data center loads will be up to 30 gigawatts by 2030.”

A major factor behind the skyrocketing demand is the rapid innovation in artificial intelligence, which is driving the construction of large warehouses of computing infrastructure that require exponentially more power than traditional data centers, notes a story by the Washington Post. The proliferation of crypto mining, in which currencies like bitcoin are transacted and minted, is also driving data center growth and putting new pressures on an overtaxed grid.

Here are projections from some of Williams’ largest customers:

  • Georgia Power says its current load growth projections are 17 times higher than what was forecasted in 2022. This will require a mix of energy sources, including additional gas-powered generation.
  • A report from Duke Energy indicates that North Carolina and South Carolina together are experiencing eight times the load growth they projected just two years ago. Said another way, for every power plant built over the last 60 years, Duke would need to build half of that again in the next decade to meet expected demand.
  • Dominion Energy also is forecasting power load needs from new data centers to grow 2.5 times over the next ten years in Virginia, already home to more than 35 percent of all hyperscale data centers worldwide, including facilities owned by Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft.

Adding to demand is that data center buildings, which operate around the clock, have higher heating and cooling requirements.

Natural gas plays a crucial role in creating resilient data centers by providing a reliable source of baseload power and quick backup power when needed, compared to solar and wind, which provide intermittent power.

Armstrong said expansion of Williams infrastructure — particularly along our Transco system — will provide the ability to continue to meet peak demand and serve growth in those areas. “There is a large power generation resource need to fill with natural gas,” he said.