You may not have noticed this but every time you go on Tiktok, comment on a picture on Instagram, or rant on Twitter you’re emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. Binge-watching a Netflix show over 10 hours uses the amount of energy capable of powering a smartphone 145 times.
Does that mean we should just stop using social media or consuming content online? Of course not! It makes no sense to disconnect everything that consumes energy unless we wish to go back to living by candlelight. The solution comes into rethinking the way we operate.
Studies show that some of the world’s largest Data Centers can contain thousands of devices demanding more than 100 megawatts (MW) of capacity. That’s enough to power 80,000 households in the USA.
At this time, Data Centers are responsible for almost 30% of Internet’s energy demand. And, according to The New York Times, the majority of data centers consumes energy in an incredibly wasteful way. That means that companies continue to operate on their maximum power capacity, regardless of demand or the time of day. This may result in waste up to 90% of the electricity pulled off the electrical grid.
Yeah, but why do we need a Green Internet???
Internet’s traffic has been growing exponentially year over year with no signs of peaking. The proliferation of heavy-bandwidth services such as Facebook, Netflix, or Amazon Prime, coupled with the ever-increasing popularity of online videogames and the nascent industry of cloud gaming; all conjure up to the explosion you see on the graph below.
Now, having all this demand with no resources to manage the energy required to fulfill it, means its consumption remains ultra-high even when traffic drops, leading to a lot of wasted energy.
It’s not all bad news, though! A lot of Data Center operators and Internet Service Providers are looking into the issue and exploring ways of increasing the mix of renewable energy sources into their electricity consumption. There are a few solutions being deployed such as “Smart standby” allowing for unused parts of a network to be put under very low energy states that save energy. There’s also a new system being put into place called “Dynamic frequency scaling”, guaranteeing that, when the system is under partial load, parts of it may be turned off without affecting general performance. Using these solutions, more than 50% of the internet’s energy consumption can be saved.
Despite the internet being essential to our daily lives, it comes at a great cost. Under the Climate Change debate, little attention is given to the enormous electricity wasted by inefficient systems powering over the internet. The network changed the way we live, work and interact. Let’s now make it a force for a greener planet!