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IT Sector Energy Consumption Doubled in 9 Years

Posted on the 12 June 2014 by Dailyfusion @dailyfusion
The energy consumption of data centers and computers grows by 4-5% yearThe energy consumption of data centers and computers grows by 4-5% year. (Credit: Flickr @ Bob Mical

The research group Internet Based Communication Networks and Services (IBCN) at the University of Gent has charted the global electricity consumption of information and communication technology (ICT) and concluded that IT sector energy consumption doubled between 2003 and 2012.

Information and communications technology is often used as an extended synonym for information technology (IT), but is a more specific term that stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of telecommunications (telephone lines and wireless signals), computers as well as necessary enterprise software, middleware, storage, and audio-visual systems, which enable users to access, store, transmit, and manipulate information.

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Previous research has shown that until 2007, IT sector energy consumption grew by 10% per year. This new research shows that the growth has declined slightly from 2007 to 2012, to 7% per year.

Despite increased efforts to improve energy efficiency, however, the electricity consumption of ICT is still growing faster than the world’s total electricity consumption.

Increase of ICT electricity consumption 2007-2012

Increase of ICT electricity consumption 2007-2012. (Credit: Ghent University)

The increase is the biggest in communication networks; they showed an average growth of 10% per year. This is the result of the trend toward more and more digital devices that are connected to each other and exchange more and more information. The consumption of data centers and computers is slightly slower, about 4-5% year.

This research shows that there is a need for further investment in energy efficient technology to stop the long-term unsustainable growth in electricity consumption. This is also the focus of some of the research activities of IBCN, especially with regard to the development of efficient networking technologies.

Last year we reported on an article in the journal Nature Climate Change, that suggested that most big data centers could become more energy efficient and cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 88% by switching to efficient, off-the-shelf equipment and improving energy management.

Data centers consume about 1.5% of the world’s electricity and are responsible for about 0.5% of carbon emissions. Yet, the Internet overall is reducing greenhouse gas emissions because it distributes goods digitally that once were delivered physically, such as books, music, publications and mail.

In another study we reported earlier, scientists found that moving common software applications used by 86 million U.S. workers to centralized cloud services could cut information technology energy consumption by up to 87%—about 23 billion kilowatt-hours. This is roughly the amount of electricity used each year by all the homes, businesses and industry in Los Angeles.

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