The Promise and Peril of AI in the Power Grid


Jan 26, 2024

High-voltage power lines with superimposed lines and circles representing artificial intelligence, photo by Igor Borisenko/Getty Images

Photo by Igor Borisenko/Getty Images

This commentary originally appeared on The National Interest on January 25, 2024.

Today, the power sector is on the cusp of a technological revolution; AI is poised to transform how electricity is produced and consumed. However, as with any new technology, its use comes with hidden risks and challenges that must be addressed.

Power grids are becoming rapidly more complex due to the rising demand for electricity and the need for decarbonization. To manage this complexity, relevant data must be generated, exchanged, and analyzed at speeds and volumes beyond the capacity of human operators alone. Advanced analytical tools like AI will play a significant role in managing future power grids.

AI offers numerous opportunities in this regard. Overall, it could optimize energy consumption to reduce waste while improving efficiency and comfort levels. AI could also better forecast energy demand and supply, allowing energy providers to adjust their production and distribution to increase flexibility and reduce the risk of blackouts. AI tools could open new ways of interacting within the electricity grid, such as the dynamic charging and discharging of electric vehicle batteries.

Furthermore, AI could help integrate various renewable energy sources into the grid. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are intermittent, meaning they are not always available when needed. However, AI can better predict when renewable energy sources will be available and adjust energy storage and consumption to optimize its use.

Still, the adoption of AI in the energy sector is not without its challenges. One of the biggest hurdles is the outdated power system infrastructure. Many of these systems were built decades ago and are not equipped to handle the demands of rapidly emerging technologies and changing consumer needs. Therefore, significant investments will be required to update the grid and realize the benefits of emerging technology.…

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Ismael Arciniegas Rueda is a senior economist at RAND. Henri van Soest is a senior analyst at RAND Europe. Hye Min Park is a Ph.D. student at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and an assistant policy researcher at RAND.

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