DeepMind wants to help the UK cut its energy consumption by up to 10%, according to a report published in The Financial Times on Sunday.
The artificial intelligence (AI) lab – acquired by Google for £400 million in 2014 – has developed algorithms that can anticipate energy demand and supply.
They’re already being used in Google’s energy hungry data centres but now the company is talking to the National Grid, which owns and operates energy infrastructure across the UK, about how AI could be used to help balance energy supply and demand across the nation.
“We’re early stages talking to National Grid and other big providers about how we could look at the sorts of problems they have,” Demis Hassabis, DeepMind’s cofounder and CEO, told the FT. “It would be amazing if you could save 10% of the country’s energy usage without any new infrastructure, just from optimisation. That’s pretty exciting.”
The talks between DeepMind and the National Grid were briefly hinted at by Mustafa Suleyman, one of the other DeepMind cofounders, last November. But the FT report reveals that DeepMind specifically wants to help the National Grid to utilise renewable energy sources in the most efficient way possible.
One of the issues with renewable energy sources like wind and solar, which the National Grid wants to become increasingly dependent upon, is that they’re intermittent. DeepMind thinks that its self-learning algorithms could learn how to predict demands placed on the National Grid’s network and ultimately help the government-funded organisation to deal with them.
A DeepMind spokesperson told Business Insider: “As we’ve said publicly for many months, there’s huge potential for predictive machine learning technology to help energy systems reduce their environmental impact. One really interesting possibility is whether we could help the National Grid maximise the use of renewables through using machine learning to predict peaks in demand and supply.
“While we’re excited about this idea, we’re at the very earliest stages of exploring a possible partnership.”
A spokesman for National Grid told the FT: “We are in the very early stages of looking at the potential of working with DeepMind and exploring what opportunities they could offer for us.
“We are always excited to look at how the latest advances in technology can bring improvements in our performance, ensure we are making the best use of renewable energy, and help save money for bill payers.”
DeepMind’s algorithms have enabled Google to cut the amount of energy used by the enormous cooling systems in its server-filled data centres by 40%, ultimately cutting the data centres’ overall electricity consumption by 15%.
“Because that’s worked so well we’re obviously expanding that capability around Google, but we’d like to look at doing it at National Grid-scale,” said Hassabis. “We think there’s no reason why you can’t think of a whole national grid of a country in the same way as you can the data centres.”
DeepMind seems to be on a mission to work with the UK government in other areas too. The other big one is healthcare, with DeepMind’s algorithms being used by a number of NHS trusts to monitor patients through an app called Streams.