In a 30-square-mile patch of northern Virginia that’s been dubbed “data center alley,” the boom in artificial intelligence is turbocharging electricity use. Struggling to keep up, the power company that serves the area temporarily paused new data center connections at one point in 2022. Virginia’s environmental regulators considered a plan to allow data centers to run diesel generators during power shortages, but backed off after it drew strong community opposition.

In the Kansas City area, a data center along with a factory for electric-vehicle batteries that are under construction will need so much energy the local provider put off plans to close a coal-fired power plant.

This is how it is in much of the US, where electric utilities and regulators have been caught off guard by the biggest jump in demand in a generation. One of the things they didn’t properly plan for is AI, an immensely power-hungry technology that uses specialized microchips to process mountains of data.”