Utility company Duke Energy is changing the way it bills data center clients for electricity as pressure on the US power grid grows.

An amended rate structure is being imposed on new data center customers, as well as those running factories. It was put in place during Q1 following a study by Duke’s “hyperscale team,” which looked at ways that high-volume users of electricity could pay their fair share.

A Duke Energy nuclear plant in South Carolina
Duke Energy's power plant in South Carolina

This will involve so-called “minimum take” clauses, which require data centers to pay for a certain amount of power, regardless of how much they consume.

Duke, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina and owns more than 50,000MW of energy capacity, could also introduce contracts that would require data center operators to make up-front contributions to pay for new power infrastructure.

Speaking to Reuters, Duke’s CFO Brian Savoy said his company was having to take action to deal with growing demand for resources.

Though he said Duke had not signed up any new data center customers so far in 2024, Savoy believes the industry accepts that the way it pays for energy must change. "A few years ago, I would say these concepts weren't embraced by data centers or large loads because the power supply was more plentiful," Savoy said. "Now, with a constrained power supply, they understand this is what it's going to take to get in the game."

Duke expects to provide 18,000 additional gigawatt hours (GWh) of load for new customers by 2028, with data centers accounting for 25 percent of this. In February, the company said it was upping its capital expenditure for 2024 to $73 billion, an increase of $8 billion compared to its previous estimates.

The rapid build-out of new digital infrastructure, largely driven by demand for AI workloads which require high-power, high-density data centers, means the amount of electricity required by the sector is growing fast.

In the US alone, power consumption from data centers is expected to reach 35GW a year by the end of the decade, more than double its 2022 level.

Duke is already working with data center operators, and in February said it was talking to some of the biggest players in the industry about utilizing their backup generators during times of peak demand.