What’s the energy footprint of IT?

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What's the worldwide energy footprint of IT? We're not entirely sure, but according to a recent report over at Tech Pundit (pdf), it's really freaking huge.

Let's start with what we're measuring, which is the world's “Information-Communications-Technologies” (ICT) ecosystem. This includes,

  • Data centers that have become warehouse-scale supercomputers unlike anything in history;
  • Ubiquitous broadband wired and wireless communications networks;
  • The myriad of end-user devices from PCs to tablets and smart phones to digital TV, and,
  • The manufacturing facilities producing all the ICT hardware

The tech-pundit report reveals some eye-opening data, such as this,

Reduced to personal terms, although charging up a single tablet or smart phone requires a negligible amount of electricity, using either to watch an hour of video weekly consumes annually more electricity in the remote networks than two new refrigerators use in a year.


There's been some pushback on that claim, so the author clarified:

It should be obvious — though apparently not for some — that we are not talking about the few kilowatt-hours (kWh) a year needed to recharge the battery inside an iPhone, iPad, or their equivalents.

The relevant energy used by a smartphone comes from the entire ICT infrastructure that makes mobile broadband possible and instantly available. When everything in the ICT ecosystem is accounted for, one finds that a single iPhone or tablet can easily use – or more properly, cause to be used – at least 400 kWh per year. That’s roughly the same as a high-efficiency residential refrigerator.

Ok so that makes it a little easier to swallow. If you look at the energy use across the entire ITC can compare to a refrigerator. Except that we're not looking at the entire infrastructure cost of running a refrigerator. (Details people!)

If you want more info on this, he's got charts and graphs and other very impressive looking things there, with colors and numbers.

Whatever you think of this report, it should leave you with a greater awareness of the energy usage and environmental impact of your devices. How do you use them? How often do you charge them? Do you recycle them, resell them, or discard in the trash?

Do your users turn off their workstations at the end of the day? Is your server room temperature control optimized and efficient? Are your servers virtualized to the extent possible?

Do you have a plan for greening your IT? Are you energy conscious? How do you handle these concerns?

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