- An arms manufacturer complained that TikTok’s data center is using all the electricity in the region.
- As a result, the company cannot keep up with the surging demand for artillery rounds.
- The CEO told the FT the company’s growth is “challenged by the storage of cat videos.”
An arms manufacturer complained that a TikTok data center is eating all the electricity in the region, meaning the company cannot keep up with the surging global demand for ammunition.
Experts are increasingly commenting on the massive demands of big tech companies, and how energy usage by their data centers is causing issues for other industries.
“We are concerned because we see our future growth is challenged by the storage of cat videos,” said Morten Brandtzæg, the CEO of the Norwegian arms manufacturer Nammo, in an interview with the Financial Times.
Brandtzæg said the demand for artillery rounds was 15 times higher than normal — a trend driven by the war in Ukraine, which has featured heavy artillery use.
Ukraine, for instance, would like to increase its daily usage of rounds from 6,000 to 65,000, he said.
Insider couldn’t immediately establish whether Nammo shells are being used in Ukraine. Its customer base, as described in a 2021 annual report, is overwhelmingly EU and NATO states, which have been making mass donations to Ukraine since Russia invaded.
However, in the area of Norway where Nammo operates, its defense work gets no priority over any other users of electricity.
Power is provided on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Elvia, the energy provider in the Raufoss region of Norway (around 120km north of Oslo).
The energy company told the FT that it has no spare capacity for Nammo to hike its output as it has been promised to TikTok. A spokesperson told the FT if Nammo does order more capacity, it will “take time” before that can be achieved because the network needs to be “strengthened.”
Brandtzæg added he “can’t rule it out” that it wasn’t a coincidence that Chinese-owned TikTok was deliberately impeding the expansion of an arms company.
“I will not rule out that it’s not by pure coincidence that this activity is close to a defence company,” he said. “I can’t rule it out.”
Insider has reached out to TikTok for comment.
“Critical industry must have access to energy,” he Brandtzæg. “I don’t think it’s one-off, I think it’s a trend for the future.”
TikTok and other tech giants have faced criticism for their energy use. Back in July 2022, a report from the FT found the electricity use of large companies including Microsoft, Oracle, LG, Huawei, Amazon, and Dell was making it harder to build more homes in London. Due to the electricity grid running out of capacity, the report stated the capital could face a ban on new housing projects until 2035.
An earlier report from 2019 by EirGrid, Ireland’s electrical grid operator, found similar conclusions for that country, which is a popular base for global companies’ European data centers.
It found that data centers can often require the “same amount of energy as a large town,” and could account for “29% of electricity demand in Ireland by 2028.”
TikTok’s presence in Norway is unlikely to diminish, given the company’s recent announcement it wants to achieve carbon net-zero by 2030.
The country has a surplus of renewable energy (mostly hydropower), and is a popular destination for data centers due to cold temperatures which reduce the requirement to use power cooling down the computers.
TikTok also has plans to build what will be the largest data center campus in Norway by November 2023.