Gigawatts: Internet Accounts for 2 Percent of Global Energy Consumption

Gigawatts: Internet Accounts for 2 Percent of Global Energy Consumption
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“The Internet is responsible for 170 to 307 gigawatts of global energy consumption, according to the University of California, Berkeley’s Justin Ma and the International Computer Science Institute’s Barath Raghavan. That amount is not as much as it sounds when compared with energy use across all sectors.

Worldwide energy consumption stands at 16 terawatts, and the Internet accounts for less than 2 percent of that total, according to the researchers. To come up with the total, Ma and Raghavan used previously published research to conduct a rough Internet census. They estimate that there are 750 million laptops, 1 billion smartphones, and 100 million servers.

They also estimate the energy that it costs to manufacture each of these devices and the period each is used before being replaced. The figure also includes an estimate of the energy that cell towers and optical switches use when transmitting Internet traffic, and similar calculations for Wi-Fi transmitters and cloud storage devices.”

The authors of the research als underline that: “The Internet’s energy use is small compared with the 16 TW consumed globally. In contrast, transportation uses 61% of global oil production. Rather than focusing on saving energy for the Internet in isolation, could we achieve bigger savings in worldwide energy use by having the Internet offload some of the functionality of these other sectors?

More importantly, we should look at why there is an urgent need to decrease energy use. Industrialized nations are likely to face a pervasive oil bottleneck this decade that will force major changes. On a similar timescale and a more global basis, climate change demands the rapid phasing-out of fossil fuels. If the Internet is to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, our approaches to energyefficiency must target these challenges head on.”

The Energy and Emergy of the Internet via ACM TechNews
Barath Raghavan and Justin Ma,
Proceedings of the ACM Workshop on Hot Topics in Networks (HotNets), November 2011.

Photos Credits:
Microsoft Bing Maps’ datacenter By Robert Scoble / FlickR
Google Search Appliance in datacenter By benoit.deckmyn / FlickR