AI is quickly becoming one of the most effective tools to combat climate change. It can help develop and test new materials for batteries and solar cells, manage the power grid, study climate patterns and monitor emissions, among other things. But it also carries risks, such as the possibility of data leaks and invasions of privacy, as well as costs, including the enormous amounts of energy required to run the computing power that powers it. The DOE can deploy numerous resources to increase the opportunities and mitigate the risks, including grants for AI startups, access to some of the world’s fastest and most energy-efficient supercomputers, and the brains of scientists in the nation’s laboratories.

Fu’s task will be to bring together all these resources, now spread across the agency, in the same direction and to involve a broader base of agencies, scientists and entrepreneurs, she told Semafor.

“We have so many smart people at DOE who are focused on their specific part of the mission,” she said. “One of the things we need to do better with technologies like AI is getting out there and thinking proactively about these issues because they are just so important.”

Fu’s first priorities for the office, she said, will include supporting the use of AI in the development of nuclear fusion energy; increase the energy efficiency of supercomputers so that AI does not become a major source of greenhouse gas emissions; to test AI models for vulnerabilities to hackers; and make DOE’s vast repositories of physics, energy and climate data more widely accessible to scientists and private AI developers.

Fu is a good choice for the job, said David Sandalow, a climate policy expert at Columbia University and a former senior Energy Department official. “She is an extremely capable DOE veteran with extensive government experience,” he said. “It is my hope that this office will integrate AI tools into all aspects of DOE’s mission.”

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