Broadband may create energy crisis

Via Bill St. Arnaud, who reports on a Australian study.

Here is the essential finding:

In a world-first model of internet power consumption, University of Melbourne researchers have been able to identify the major contributors to Internet power consumption as the take-up of broadband services grows in the coming years.

It has now become clear that the exponential growth of the Internet is not sustainable, “said Dr Hinton.

The result indicates that, even with the improvements in energy efficiency of electronics, the power consumption of the Internet will increase from 0.5% of today’s national electricity consumption to 1% by around 2020.

Dr Hinton says the growth of the Internet, IT broadband telecommunications will provide a wide range of new products and services.

New home services include Video on Demand, web based real-time gaming, social networking, peer-to-peer networking and more. For the business community, new services may include video conferencing, outsourcing and tele-working.

“To support these new high-bandwidth services, the capacity of the Internet will need to be significantly increased. If Internet capacity is increased, the energy consumption, and consequently the carbon footprint of the Internet will also increase.

2 Comments Broadband may create energy crisis

  1. AvatarMarc Fawzi

    I don’t know for sure, but I would think the biggest cost in power consumption comes from the data centers that consume a ton of electricity just for cooling not from the telecom infrastructure (a Google-sized data center is bound to be much larger in its power consumption than the largest telecom peering hub)

    Data centers that run,,, are the most massive power consumers.

    Local energy production (from renewables) is always cheaper than producing energy centrally and then having to transport it to the data center. That’s why one or more of Google’s latest data centers are located right next to massive waterfalls. And that’s why P2P energy production and Smart Grid technologies will ultimately replace the existing centralized power distribution model, and will be the most natural fitting solution for the future P2P Internet/World Wide Mesh.

  2. AvatarSepp Hasslberger

    I remember a discussion some months ago where participants wanted to know how much power the internet consumes in relation to the rest of the economy. Figures as high as 10 % were mentioned.

    It is good to see that the research here found one half of a percent, possibly increasing to one per cent.

    I would also like to comment on the view that “It has now become clear that the exponential growth of the Internet is not sustainable” expressed by the researcher.

    The services that broadband offers (like internet based games or teleworking) would – it is true – increase the power consumption of the internet, but at the same time, I believe, they would significantly reduce power consumption associated with physically moving bodies from one place to another, such as commuting traffic and air travel. So before making a sweeping statement about the sustainability of the increase of broadband use, I believe both sides of that equation should be looked at.

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