Electricity Intensity of Internet Data Transmission: Untangling the Estimates

14 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2018

See all articles by Joshua Aslan

Joshua Aslan

University of Surrey

Kieren Mayers

INSEAD

Jonathan G. Koomey

University of California, Berkeley - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab)

Chris France

University of Surrey - Centre for Environmental Strategy

Date Written: August 2018

Abstract

In order to understand the electricity use of Internet services, it is important to have accurate estimates for the average electricity intensity of transmitting data through the Internet (measured as kilowatt‐hours per gigabyte [kWh/GB]). This study identifies representative estimates for the average electricity intensity of fixed‐line Internet transmission networks over time and suggests criteria for making accurate estimates in the future. Differences in system boundary, assumptions used, and year to which the data apply significantly affect such estimates. Surprisingly, methodology used is not a major source of error, as has been suggested in the past. This article derives criteria to identify accurate estimates over time and provides a new estimate of 0.06 kWh/GB for 2015. By retroactively applying our criteria to existing studies, we were able to determine that the electricity intensity of data transmission (core and fixed‐line access networks) has decreased by half approximately every 2 years since 2000 (for developed countries), a rate of change comparable to that found in the efficiency of computing more generally.

Keywords: electricity intensity, energy, industrial ecology, information and communication technology (ICT), Internet, meta‐analysis

Suggested Citation

Aslan, Joshua and Mayers, Kieren and Koomey, Jonathan G. and France, Chris, Electricity Intensity of Internet Data Transmission: Untangling the Estimates (August 2018). Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 22, Issue 4, pp. 785-798, 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3226029 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12630

Joshua Aslan (Contact Author)

University of Surrey

Guildford
Guildford, GU2 5XH
United Kingdom

Kieren Mayers

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex
France

Jonathan G. Koomey

University of California, Berkeley - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) ( email )

1 Cyclotron Road
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Chris France

University of Surrey - Centre for Environmental Strategy

University of Surrey
Guildford, GU2 7XH
United Kingdom

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