Experts are warning new energy solutions will be needed to power the world’s computers in the face of surging demand from artificial intelligence.Barely a year after it went mainstream, AI consumes more electricity than Bitcoin mining — or more than some developed nations. By some estimates that amounts to almost 1% of all electricity consumed in the world — and about 2% of emissions, or more than Canada.OpenAI CEO Sam Altman admitted to his WEF colleagues at Davos last week that there’s “no plan” for how his company’s operations will continue to secure enough energy to keep growing, much less the entire industry. "There's no way to get there without a breakthrough," he told Bloomberg. In particular, Altman said the future of AI depends on breakthroughs in nuclear technologies.“The AI systems of the future will need tremendous amounts of energy and this fission and fusion can help deliver them.”.The irony is that AI is considered essential to designing modern power grids and reducing emissions. It previously relied on wind and solar to generate power, but it just can’t keep up with demand.In 2021, Altman invested $375 million in fusion pioneer Helion Energy, which has since been joined by Microsoft, which is already OpenAI’s biggest financial backer.Due to it's jump into AI, the Seattle-based tech giant is consuming four times more power than than its cloud servers. A single one of its data centres consumes as much power as 80,000 homes.And that’s expected to double from 17 gigawatts (GW) in 2022 to 35 GW by 2030. By some estimates, the US would have to spend more than $100 billion to upgrade its power system by 2027 to handle the load.That doesn’t include the energy needed to keep all those servers running cool..Microsoft hired Erin Henderson — who previously managed nuclear power plants in Tennessee — in a newly created Director of Nuclear & Energy Innovation with a mandate to implement “a multi-technology approach that includes renewables, energy efficiency, storage and firm carbon-free sources such as advanced nuclear and fusion.”It also added Archie Manoharan as a director of nuclear technologies to oversee development of small-scale modular reactors. “Microsoft is proud to be part of the global effort to decarbonize the electricity sector and empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. I am eager to contribute to this vision!” she said (exclamation point hers).They’re going to need it. A Microsoft survey last year showed 90% of businesses are planning or thinking about implementing AI in their operations.That said, SMRs are at least five years away, even in Alberta where Edmonton’s Capital Power signed a deal with Ontario Power Generation to develop SMRs. The first is scheduled to come online at Darlington starting in 2028.