Cloud computing has the potential to significantly advance Green ICT. Cloud computing can be greener than in-house data centers for many small and medium companies. Yet many of the wasteful practices that result in unnecessary resource consumption and toxic emissions in traditional ICT are now finding there way into cloud utilization.
The creation of ICT content - software and e-media - is part of ICT's footprint of resource input and waste output. A 2009 UK report, while dated, is still helpful in scoping the size and structure of media industry footprints.
Vertatique strives to cover the CT, as well as the IT, in Green ICT, with attention to networking, broadcast, telephony, and other communications infrastructure elements. Our latest update to this post looks at GHG emission from various segments of mobile telecommunications: network access services, device charging, and industry supply chain.
Green ICT is concerned with all resources consumed in creating e-gear and operating ICT infrastructures. Significant amounts of water are used in everything from chip fabrication to PC manufacture to data center operation. This makes ICT vulnerable to droughts and other constraints. It has also dragged ICT water use into the political arena. We've just added a video from Google about how the company is using was water to cool one of its data centers.
We launched Vertatique with the statistic that data centers consumes ~2% of global electricity production. We now know that the globe's broader ICT energy footprint is ~8%, the majority of which is NOT from data centers. The contribution of communications, driven by explosion of cloud computing and mobile devices, has helped drive the number higher. Here are the facts and figures.
Most Green ICT attention focuses on the datacenter. Five years of work consistently holds that datacenters represent a minority of total ICT energy consumption and carbon emissions.
We've been following the issue of conflict minerals in our e-devices for more than five years. Our readers will know that cassiterite, the mineral ore form of tin, is a conflict mineral when mined in Central Africa. It turns out that much more tin - over a third of the world's consumption - is mined in Indonesia. Tin extraction there is not driven by conflict, but is still a brutal business for the miners and takes a toll on the environment.
Assessing the carbon footprint of ITC equipment is a critical part of Green ICT. Much of a piece of gear's footprint comes from "embodied" carbon - the carbon released during is creation and transportation, before the user ever powers it up. It turns out that this has been true since the Iron Age.
Global ICT consumes ~8% of the world's electricity. How does that fit into the big picture of global energy consumption? And is that good or bad for the planet?
We have reported estimates for ICT electricity consumption over Vertatique's lifespan ranging from 2% to 10%. I am comfortable using ~8%, based on our most recent analysis.
The Digital Power Group said in August 2013 that global ICT consumes ~1,500 TWh of electricity annually, ~10% of the world's annual generation. This is the much greater that the 2% number commonly cited six years ago when Vertatique was launched. How did we get from there to here? And, is 10% a credible number?
This is not the first time I have seen the 10% number. It was cited in the promotion for a 2009 green communications conference in Germany. I've asked the source of both these 10% numbers for detailed breakdowns. Let's take a look at what we already know until we hear back.