Energy-Wasting Internet…IEA Describes “Range Of Policy Options” For Curbing Wasted Power

Press release from the International Energy Agency

Around $80 billion wasted on power for online devices in 2013

Simple measures can keep problem of inefficient ‘network standby’ from worsening in years ahead, IEA report says
2 July 2014 Paris

Today, the world’s 14 billion online electronic devices – such as set-top boxes, modems, printers and game consoles – waste around USD 80 billion each year because of inefficient technology. By 2020, the problem will considerably worsen, with an estimated USD 120 billion wasted. But a report by the International Energy Agency points to a different path, identifying simple measures that can be implemented now to improve energy efficiency in networked devices, resulting in massive savings of energy and money.

The report, More Data, Less Energy: Making Network Standby More Efficient in Billions of Connected Devices, shows that electricity demand of our increasingly digital economies is growing at an alarming rate. While data centre energy demand has received much attention, of greater cause for concern is the growing energy demand of billions of networked devices. In 2013, a relatively small portion of the world’s population relied on these devices to stay connected. But energy demand is increasing as a growing share of the world’s population becomes wired and as network connectivity spreads to devices and appliances that were previously not connected, such as washing machines, refrigerators, lights and thermostats.

‘The proliferation of connected devices brings many benefits to the world, but right now the cost is far higher than it should be,’ said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. ‘Consumers are losing money in the form of wasted energy, which is leading to more costly power stations and more distribution infrastructure being built than we would otherwise need – not to mention all the extra greenhouse gases that are being emitted. But it need not be this way. If we adopt best available technologies we can minimise the cost of meeting demand as the use and benefits of connected devices grows.’

As the report explains, much of the problem boils down to inefficient ‘network standby’ – that is, the maintaining of a network connection while in standby. In many devices, standby is a misnomer: it suggests that the device has gone to sleep and is almost off. In reality, most network-enabled devices draw as much power in this mode as when activated to perform their main tasks.

In 2013, the world’s networked devices consumed around 616 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, the majority of which was used in standby mode. Of that total, around 400 TWh – equivalent to the electricity consumed annually by the United Kingdom and Norway combined – was wasted because of inefficient technology.

‘The problem is not that these devices are often in standby mode, but rather that they typically use much more power than they should to maintain a connection and communicate with the network,” said Ms. Van der Hoeven. ‘Just by using today’s best available technology, such devices could perform exactly the same tasks in standby while consuming around 65% less power.’

The report describes technologies and technical solutions as well as a range of policy options that are available to reduce energy waste. It projects that if better energy efficiency measures were applied to online devices in the coming years, 600 TWh of energy would be saved. That’s equivalent to shutting 200 standard 500MW coal-fired power plants, which would cut emissions by 600 million metric tons of CO2

In the report, the IEA calls on policy makers, standards development organisations, software and hardware developers, designers, service providers and manufacturers to work together to reduce energy demand. To achieve this, the agency urges an international initiative to enhance standards, as the issue is global.


11 responses to “Energy-Wasting Internet…IEA Describes “Range Of Policy Options” For Curbing Wasted Power”

  1. DirkH

    “The report, More Data, Less Energy: Making Network Standby More Efficient in Billions of Connected Devices, shows that electricity demand of our increasingly digital economies is growing at an alarming rate.”

    Well, every consumer and company has an interest in reducing his bill so I see no problem there.
    Where I do see a problem is in the giantic, exponentially growing data centers of the Total Surveillance State, be it the NSA or the associated companies like Google and Amazon – but even that problem will subside once the economy has been taxed to death via the far end of the Laffer curve – or alternatively, the currency hyperinflated.

  2. A C Osborn

    Never heard of a Mains On/Off switch then?

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    Did they suggest we use an abacus instead?

  4. Bernd Felsche

    In reality, most network-enabled devices draw as much power in this mode as when activated to perform their main tasks.

    A gross distortion and deliberate misinformation.

    My Internet (DAB+/FM/…) radio receiver uses about 2W on standby because it has a clock to display time. When it’s on, it uses more than 20W.

    The Blu-Ray player with Internet connectivity uses less than 1W on standby. More than 10W when operating. The set-top box (STB) for digital TV uses less than 1W on standby and more than 20W when recording programs while I watch a DVD. Without it being on standby, I couldn’t use any of its timed recording functions, nor connect into it over the network to watch recorded programs from my computer.

    The total standby power consumption from my Internet-connected “media centre”, including gigabit switch, is less than 10W. I turn it off at the wall when I go away for more than a week.

    To put the power consumption into perspective; the whole media centre has the potential to use over 2000W; though I generally refrain from rattling the windows and keep it below 300W.

    I’ve had to throw out my “energy efficient” colour laser printer because the fuser kept on gumming up; costing over $200 to replace the module. It looks like the fuser is allowed to cool off too quickly after operation or isn’t preheated sufficiently. There’s at least a megawatt-hour of embedded energy in the now-junk. A million hours of standby energy consumption.

    1. DirkH

      My personal energy consumption should be about 10% electricity, 20% heating, 70% driving, I estimate. I’ll get around to reducing my electricity cost after I fixed the bigger issues.

  5. John F. Hultquist

    This reminds me I have an instant on TV that I haven’t looked at recently. There is no Off-Switch other than unplugging it. I’ll do that.
    Meanwhile, can’t they just build new windmills? Just kidding. Also (joke) apparently they are racist. They are all white. Why can’t we have some blue, pink, brown, and black ones?

  6. Graeme No.3

    I wonder how much of this stand-by is consumed by wind turbines?

    Despite what the greens want you to think, each machine sits there in quiet conditions monitoring with a cost of 1-3Kw per hour, to see when to “wake up”.
    No, it seems that it is only 1-2 Terawatts per year, or 2 million tons of CO2 per annum. Hardly worth worrying about when there are so many other ways of making life less cheerful for the ordinary citizen.

  7. Benny

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  8. John Silver

    There is only one conclusion: shut down the Internet! That will take care of those annoying bloggers too!

  9. Billy

    All the lost energy ends up as heat which contributes to heating the building. Where I live heating season is 9 months of the year. Not really a big problem. The lost energy would otherwise be replaced by extra heating load.
    It may be an issue in large data centers and commercial/financial buildings. In that case data is part of their product and there is an incentive to manage it in the best possible way.
    This seems like a lot of talk about nothing.

    1. lemiere jacques

      it was the same with bulbs..they contributed heating the room in winter.

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