back to article IT now 10 percent of world's electricity consumption, report finds

The information and technology ecosystem now represents around 10 per cent of the world's electricity generation, and it's hungry for filthy coal. In a report likely to inspire depression among environmentalists, and fluffy statements from tech companies, analyst firm Digital Power Group has synthesized numerous reports and …


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  1. Paul J Turner

    I wonder

    how much power all those super-computers doing climate modelling use...

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: I wonder

      What did you think was really causing global warming?

      Now you know!

    2. LarsG

      Is that all?

      I look around my house and at my tech family, 3 TV's on, 4 mobile phones charging, 3 tablets plugged in, 2 iPods on the go, wifi speakers blaring, four laptops and a tower plugged in, Xbox, wii, music production..... It goes on and on and on and so do my bills.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Is that all?

        Don't enumerate your devices, just take a look at your smart meter and tell us what it says.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is that all?

        " 3 TV's on, 4 mobile phones charging, 3 tablets plugged in, 2 iPods on the go, wifi speakers blaring, four laptops and a tower plugged in, Xbox, wii, music production..... It goes on and on and on and so do my bills."

        And still it's probably your fridge and freezer that form the largest single common use.

    3. h3

      Re: I wonder

      I have seen a simplified weather model. (It is an order 4 differential equation.)

      It was used as an example of a chaotic system. (Change any of the inputs at all and the output is totally different).

      Even you knew all the inputs you wouldn't be able to measure them accurately enough.

      That is what makes me think it is all a waste of time.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: I wonder

        That's because you confuse climate and weather.

        And seriously, do you really believe you have found the one-liner killer argument against an army of PhDs who came up with the stuff you are saying there in the first place? Similar delusions can be found in religious cults...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Only half the equation

    Aside from the the warmist spin, what about the many efficiencies made possible by IT:

    - Massvely less paper usage than would be otherwise

    - More efficient communication

    - More information available on demand

    - Telecommuting

    - Online banking

    Add up these and many more I haven't mentioned and it must amount to quite a 'footprint' that's gone missing.

    1. jockmcthingiemibobb

      Re: Only half the equation

      Less Paper? Perhaps that would be true if printer paper cost $100 a ream!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Only half the equation

        If the paper price won't hold you back, the ink cartridge price will.

        And we didn't even need a "paper sin tax" for that.

      2. Harry

        Re: Only half the equation

        Its the energy needed to make or recycle paper that's the problem.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: Only half the equation

          And the energy needed to post that paper to each other.

    2. Camilla Smythe

      Re: Only half the equation

      "Add up these and many more I haven't mentioned and it must amount to quite a 'footprint' that's gone missing."

      Uhm no. People just download more crispy frog ringtones whilst the CRM systems scream in the foreground.

      I think you may find that the 'footprint' has got bigger and more intrusive.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only half the equation

      Efficiency doesn't generally result in consumption reduction according to Jevon's Paradox.

      Similarly in mobile telecoms, massive improvement of the bits/Hz just means people use/waste more bandwidth for the most inane things. Google's Chrome downloads links in the background that is pure waste.

    4. Black Rat

      Re: Only half the equation

      Are you suggesting we should stop using spare capacity to brute-force passwords and mine bit-coins on the company hardware after hours?

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    In 1975 there was a report called "Coal:Bridge to the future"

    I must dig it out some time.

    It looks like they were right and the nuclear advocates of the time were completely wrong.

    Who knew?

    1. itzman

      Re: In 1975 there was a report called "Coal:Bridge to the future"

      I think that indeed coal is exactly that, a bridge to the future,.

      Rational analysis shows however, that that future will be overwhelmingly nuclear, or overwhelmingly restricted to a very small fraction of the population.

      Obviously the best place to build a data centre is inside a nuclear power station. Cut out the middle men and take a totally constant and utterly defined demand off it with no grids involved.

      Security should be excellent. An added bonus

      1. Gavin King

        Re: In 1975 there was a report called "Coal:Bridge to the future"

        But if it's in a nuclear power station won't the data become radioactive?

    2. Brian Miller Silver badge

      Re: In 1975 there was a report called "Coal:Bridge to the future"

      Some of it is on the net:

      A really good question, though, is what would happen if electricity were rationed? Chips are always getting more efficient, but how much would be shut down if the NSA was told they could only have 10KW of electricity for data, and how much of Google would go dark? What would a shopping site like Amazon look like if they could only have 5KW of power for their IT?

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Switch on, brown out, peace green.

    Can I get my CANDUs now?

    How about NOW?



    1. John Hughes

      Re: Switch on, brown out, peace green.

      Why on earth do you want a CANDU?

      CANDU is a machine for turning natural uranium into plutonium - it's the best way of getting a bomb on the cheap that anyone knows.

      If you want sexy long term you want a liquid salt thorium reactor.

      If you want reliable in the short term you want an LWR. (And you need to learn the French lesson - build a shitload of identical reactors, stop fiddling around with new designs for each plant).

  5. Harry

    If we didn't have computers, we would need a lot more people sitting in offices, doing the jobs that are presently done by computers.

    Those people would almost certainly be consuming far more energy -- lighting, air conditioning, transport getting to or from work. They would be using paper and pens. They would need more furniture and yet more office buildings. They would be posting more communications by snail mail, using even more energy to transport and deliver.

    If you want to save money and energy, keep the computers and ban businesses and government from using snail mail.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Ban, tax, fine. Index, regulate, stimulate. Fight, impose, control.


      Always these statist cuss words.

  6. Katie Saucey


    Throw more kittens on the fire! Seriously fuck off. The civilized world need electricity, get a viable alternative to coal (nuclear maybe), and I'm in.

  7. Silas S. Brown

    Raspberry Pi to the rescue?

    My ARM-based Raspberry Pi home server takes less power than the router and it's still able to run my Web Adjuster system to annotate Chinese websites. Why isn't there a company doing Raspberry Pi co-location? Yes I had to spend more time thinking how to set it up using lightweight tools, and I suppose "time is money" in a corporate setting, but on the other hand I did end up with something more scalable as a result (if it can serve my userbase on the Pi then how many could it serve on a bigger machine), so perhaps it would be a useful exercise to develop for Raspberry Pi servers first?

    1. itzman

      Re: Raspberry Pi to the rescue?

      If you follow el reg then you will know that the new server farm metric is giga flops per watt or something.

      Good though an ARM is, actually a big virtualised server with shared raid disks running gazillions of little pi lookalikes as virtual machines, is better.,

      I have a relative whose job is throwing out old data center kit and installing the new. In general what goes in is about 1/10th of the footprint and power consumption of what goes out.

      And there s more to come.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Raspberry Pi to the rescue?

      There are currently ARM based servers with multiple units in 1U rack chassis already. Those boxes are, in effect, what you describe, lots of Rasberry Pi's running as servers in data centres.

  8. h3

    Netflix annoys even though I use it due to its insistence on streaming everything. (If I am going to watch something more than once I don't see why wasting the bandwidth that is a shared resource downloading it again is a good thing). Local disk space is dirt cheap.

    Analytics's annoy me as well especially if they run on my end they waste loads of bandwidth to and from Google don't see why they cannot be forced to do what they want server side.

  9. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Sounds right

    IT: 10% Energy Consumption, Gadget Marketing: 90% Hot Air.

  10. John Robson Silver badge


    Isn't manufacturer of devices a capital cost, allocated to my ourcahasing decisions - and should therefore not be allocated to each an every query I make...

  11. David Pollard


    It would be interesting to know what proportion of energy consumption is down to advertising.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Advertising?

      "It would be interesting to know what proportion of energy consumption is down to advertising."

      Typical marketing budget is around 4% of turnover, and advertising spend as a percentage of GDP is a similar sort of number. So not unreasonable to conclude that if it is 4% of GDP, then it's not that far different from 4% of energy use.

      Admittedly advertising doesn't usually involve heavy durable assets that you'd associate with big energy use, but that actually makes the energy intensity worse, because the spend is associated with printed material (paper and inks being very energy intensive to make) or with energy use by electronics (TV adverts, a share of your screen on advert supported websites). Note that for it to be around 4% we are (for example) reallocating the energy use of the entire nation's tellies during advert breaks to "advertising" rather than "domestic use", but I think that's correct for these purposes of largely idle speculation. You'd also include the entire energy use of advertising agencies, including their building heating costs, the electricity associated with processing their payroll runs and the like.

  12. The Alpha Klutz

    electricity is bad

    well maybe we should just turn it off then if its so bad?

    thought not.

  13. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    IT Angle

    IT consumes 10% of world's electricity.....

    And still your average tech support line is going to lead with "Is your computer plugged in?" :)

  14. Snake Silver badge

    Thoughtful yet ironic statement

    "Unless people can get a clear idea of the overall impact of their digital world, then the cost to the planet will remain forever obscured.

    It is ironic that you end an environmental awareness story with such a phrase, for in our capitalist societies we have almost never had an idea, or been charged for, the overall impact of our living.

    For example, in the United States, let us take the lessons of Niagara Falls, New York's, Love Canal. Hooker Chemical manufactured, and sold, chemicals for decades from this plant and made a modest profit. After closure of the plant, a toxic waste site of the company's design was discovered on the site, one of the most contaminated locales in all of the United States. It has cost the taxpayers of the United States $400 million dollars for the cleanup of the site, money that neither Hooker Chemical, nor the customers of its products, ever paid in to. The new owners of Hooker, Occidental Petroleum, did have to pay, only $129 million...and it STILL cost the taxpayers millions in legal fees to forward the lawsuit that brought about that verdict, decades after Hooker itself was out of business.

    Corporations sell pencils for, what $0.02 or so each? Does that take into account the toxic waste of caused by the production waste, the (full) environmental impact of the logging industry (which most of you are unawares; I, on the other hand, have been to both logging forests and wood processing plants O.O ), the processing and waste of creating the graphite sticks, and every other part of the production chain?

    No, we don't, do we? We only pay the "up front" costs - the cost of the materials used to create the supply materials used in manufacturing, like gasoline for the trucks, etc. We simply don't factor long-term costs, like water treatments and cleanups into our products, mostly because we treat them as "Out of sight, Out of mind".

    This HAS to change (as China is quickly realizing) or we'll all pay a huge price in the future.

  15. M Mustafa

    What about the paper saved ?

    What about the tons of paper saved due to digitization and electronic transfers ?

  16. M Mustafa

    Will Cloud bring in more efficiencies ?

    Yes indeed the data transfer in cloud space shifts from LAN o WAN entaling far more intermediate devices and hence increased power needs for transfer of information/data. But the very on-demand and elastic nature of cloud should provide power savings on server side due to more efficient usage of resources which should more than pay for the increased power needs of information exchange.

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