Research Labs are Biggest University Energy Consumers
Our recent post containing information about Green ICT issues at universities generated a lot of interest. Here is another insight: it is laboratory facilities themselves, not the gear in them, that are the big energy consumers on campuses.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison reports that while computer and laboratory equipment accounted for only ~8% of total energy consumption*, an analysis of electricity consumption by facility type** revealed that lab buildings consumed ~60% of the institution's electricity. (Classroom buildings accounted for only about ~15% of electricity.)
One reason is for this pattern is that most universities exempt research labs from energy-saving measures like occupancy-based HVAC practices. See the "Occupancy Schedules" table on page two of this University of North Carolina policy as an example.
Another is that no university holds lab directors and senior researchers accountable in any meaningful way for their labs' energy consumption or carbon footprints. (Please post a comment if you know of an exception.)
Carbon and Computers in Australia, commissioned and published by the Australian Computer Society, ranks "Education and Training" as second out of 20 economic sectors in terms of total ICT carbon emissions and tops in terms of ICT emissions per employee. There is no reason to believe this is not typical of educational institutions in other developed countries.
* HVAC energy consumption was separately reported. Assuming a PUE of 2.0, the gear would actually be responsible for ~16% of energy consumption. Also, this figure does not appear to include the energy consumption associated with the university's extensive telecommunication infrastructure.
** These figures appear to exclude electricity consumption for residence buildings.