Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Measuring IT Energy Use

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Jonathan Koomey of the Energy End-Use Forecasting group at LBNL released a report about how much power is consumed by computer servers.

This study estimates total electricity used by servers in the U.S. and the world by combining measured data and estimates of power used by the most popular servers with data on the server installed base. These estimates are based on more detailed data than are previous assessments, and they will be of use to policy makers and businesses attempting to make sense of recent trends in this industry…

Aggregate electricity use for servers doubled over the period 2000 to 2005 both in the U.S. and worldwide. Almost all of this growth was the result of growth in the number of the least expensive servers, with only a small part of that growth being attributable to growth in the power use per unit. Total power used by servers represented about 0.6% of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2005. When cooling and auxiliary infrastructure are included, that number grows to 1.2%, an amount comparable to that for color televisions. The total power demand in 2005 (including associated infrastructure) is equivalent (in capacity terms) to about five 1000 MW power plants for the U.S. and 14 such plants for the world.

This estimate (1.2%) of total US electricity consumption is quite a bit smaller than that found in previous reports (around 8%). A lower-than-expected energy bill from computers further underscores a logic of more use of IT innovations to help us lower our energy consumption in other more substantial areas, such as transportation and phantom energy loss. What exactly are these IT innovations? That’s a subject for future posts. (Incidentally, I wonder if the color television estimate is based on LCDs, Plasmas, or CRTs).

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Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

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