How Clean is Your Cloud and Telecom?

Greenpeace report How Clean is Your Cloud? I saw mentioned in 3T magazine news is actually quite interesting reading. This year’s report provides a look at the energy choices some of the largest and fastest growing IT companies. The report analyzes the 14 IT companies and the electricity supply chain in more than 80 data center cases.


The report contains also lots of interesting background information on both IT and telecom energy consumption. I recommend checking it out. Here are some points picked from How Clean is Your Cloud? report:

Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo – these global brands and a host of other IT companies are rapidly and fundamentally transforming the way in which we work, communicate, watch movies or TV, listen to music, and share pictures through “the cloud.”

The growth and scale of investment in the cloud is truly mind-blowing, with estimates of a 50-fold increase in the amount of digital information by 2020 and nearly half a trillion in investment in the coming year, all to create and feed our desire for ubiquitous access to infinite information from our computers, phones and other mobile devices, instantly.

The engine that drives the cloud is the data center. Data centers are the factories of the 21st century information age, containing thousands of computers that store and manage our rapidly growing collection of data for consumption at a moment’s notice. Given the energy-intensive nature of maintaining the cloud, access to significant amounts of electricity is a key factor in decisions about where to build these data centers. Industry leaders estimate nearly $450bn US dollars is being spent annually on new data center space.

Since electricity plays a critical role in the cost structure of companies that use the cloud, there have been dramatic strides made in improving the energy efficiency design of the facilities and the thousands of computers that go inside. However, despite significant improvements in efficiency, the exponential growth in cloud computing far outstrips these energy savings.

How much energy is required to power the ever-expanding online world? What percentage of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is attributable to the IT sector? Answers to these questions are very difficult to obtain with any degree of precision, partially due to the sector’s explosive growth, a wide range of devices and energy sources, and rapidly changing technology and business models. The estimates of the IT sector’s carbon footprint performed to date have varied widely in their methodology and scope. One of the most recognized estimates of the IT sector’s footprint was conducted as part of the 2008 SMART 2020 study, which established that the sector is responsible for 2% of global GHG emissions.

The combined electricity demand of the internet/cloud (data centers and telecommunications network) globally in 2007 was approximately 623bn kWh (if the cloud were a country, it would have the fifth largest electricity demand in the world). Based on current projections, the demand for electricity will more than triple to 1,973bn kWh (an amount greater than combined total demand of France, Germany, Canada and Brazil).

The report indicates that, due to the economic downturn and continued energy efficiency and performance improvements, global energy demand from data centers from 2005-2010 increased by 56%. Estimates of data center electricity demand come in at 31GW globally, with an increase of 19% in 2012 alone. At the same time global electricity consumption is otherwise essentially flat due to the global recession is still a staggering rate of growth.

Given the scale of predicted growth, the source of electricity must be factored into a meaningful definition of “green IT”. Energy efficiency alone will, at best, slow the growth of the sector’s footprint. The replacement of dirty sources of electricity with clean renewable sources is still the crucial missing link in the sector’s sustainability efforts according to the report.


The global telecoms sector is also growing rapidly. Rapid growth in use of smart phones and broadband mobile connections mean mobile data traffic in 2011 was eight times the size of the entire internet in 2000. It is estimated that global mobile data traffic grew 133% in 2011, with 597 petabytes of data sent by mobiles every month. In 2011, it is estimated that 6 billion people or 86.7% of the entire global population have mobile telephone subscriptions. By the end of 2012, the number of mobile connected devices is expected to exceed the global population. Electronic devices and the rapidly growing cloud that supports our demand for greater online access are clearly a significant force in driving global energy demand.

What about telecoms in the developing and newly industrialized countries? The report has some details from India (by the way it is expected that India will pass China to become the world’s largest mobile market in terms of subscriptions in 2012). Much of the growth in the Indian telecom sector is from India’s rural and semi-urban areas. By 2012, India is likely to have 200 million rural telecom connections at a penetration rate of 25%. Out of the existing 400,000 mobile towers, over 70% exist in rural and semi-urban areas where either grid-connected electricity is not available or the electricity supply is irregular. As a result, mobile towers and, increasingly, grid-connected towers in these areas rely on diesel generators to power their network operations. The consumption of diesel by the telecoms sector currently stands at a staggering 3bn liters annually, second only to the railways in India.

What is the case on other developing and newly industrialized countries? I don’t actually know.

NOTE: Please note that that many figures given on the report are just estimates based on quite little actual data, so they might be somewhat off the actual figures. Given the source of the report I would quess that if the figures are off, they are most probably off to direction so that the environmental effect looks bigger than it actually is.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    We need to talk about data centers | Medea Vox
    29 October 2019 by Medea

    New research shows that data centers are not the jackpot that local politicians and energy companies claim they are: They don’t create many jobs, they are a burden to the environment and the electricity networks, and they provide little benefit to local communities. So why all the hype when there’s a new data center coming to town?

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Raportti: Mobiiliala lähtee mukaan ilmastotalkoisiin

    The Enablement Effect
    The impact of mobile communications technologies on carbon emission reductions

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How Green Was My Data Center? (Not Very)

    A new data center industry report reveals that there’s a long way to go before anyone can claim the sector is in any way “green.” By one standard, just 12 percent of the data centers the report’s authors surveyed are either markedly efficient, or sustainable or, yes, green.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Our love of the cloud is making a green energy future impossible

    An epic number of citizens are video-conferencing to work in these lockdown times. But as they trade in a gas-burning commute for digital connectivity, their personal energy use for each two hours of video is greater than the share of fuel they would have consumed on a four-mile train ride. Add to this, millions of students ‘driving’ to class on the internet instead of walking.

    The COVID-19 crisis highlights just how much more sophisticated and robust the 2020 internet is from what existed as recently as 2008 when the economy last collapsed, an internet ‘century’ ago. If a national lockdown had occurred back then, most of the tens of millions who now telecommute would have joined the nearly 20 million who got laid off. Nor would it have been nearly as practical for universities and schools to have tens of millions of students learning from home.

    The future of AI and the cloud will bring us a lot more of the above, along with practical home diagnostics and useful VR-based telemedicine, not to mention hyper-accelerated clinical trials for new therapies. And this says nothing about what the cloud will yet enable in the 80 percent of the economy that’s not part of healthcare.

    For all of the excitement that these new capabilities offer us though, the bedrock behind all of that cloud computing will remain consistent — and consistently increasing — demand for energy. Far from saving energy, our AI-enabled workplace future uses more energy than ever before, a challenge the tech industry rapidly needs to assess and consider in the years ahead.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    LUMI-supertietokoneen hukkalämmöllä tuotetaan 20 prosenttia Kajaanin kaukolämmöstä: CSC ja Loiste Lämpö allekirjoittivat sopimuksen

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Data centers consume less energy than thought
    Research from Northwestern University offers comprehensive analysis presents a more nuanced presents of global energy use related to data centers

    If the world is using more and more data, then it must be using more and more energy, right? Not so, according to a comprehensive analysis performed by researchers at Northwestern University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Koomey Analytics. They have developed the a detailed model to date of global data center energy use and have found that although demand for data has increased rapidly, massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept energy use roughly flat over the past decade.

    This comprehensive model provides a more nuanced view of data center energy use and its drivers, enabling the researchers to make strategic policy recommendations for better managing this energy use in the future.

    “While the historical efficiency progress made by data centers is remarkable, our findings do not mean that the IT industry and policymakers can rest on their laurels,” said Eric Masanet, who led the study. “We think there is enough remaining efficiency potential to last several more years. But ever-growing demand for data means that everyone — including policy makers, data center operators, equipment manufacturers, and data consumers — must intensify efforts to avoid a possible sharp rise in energy use later this decade.”

    Filled with computing and networking equipment, data centers are central locations that collect, store, and process data. As the world relies more and more on data-intensive technologies, the energy use of data centers is a growing concern.

    “Considering that data centers are energy-intensive enterprises in a rapidly evolving industry, we do need to analyze them rigorously,” said study coauthor Arman Shehabi, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Less detailed analyses have predicted rapid growth in data center energy use, but without fully considering the historical efficiency progress made by the industry. When we include that missing piece, a different picture of our digital lifestyles emerges.”

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Air- versus water-cooled chilled water plants
    A water-cooled chiller plant can be more efficient over the life span of the system and will be less costly than an air-cooled chiller plant

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Understanding changing data center metrics
    There is a better way to assess data center behavior. Novel multidimensional metrics have been incorporated in data center standards and best practices

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Euroopan datakeskuksista hiilineutraaleja 2030 mennessä

    Euroopan pilvipalvelu- ja datakeskustoimijoilla on oma ”Climate Neutral Data Centre Operator Pact” -yhteenliittymä. Nyt siltä on tullut aloite, jossa toiminnansta halutaan tehdä hiilineutraalia vuoteen 2030 mennessä. Nyt maailman suurin datakeskusyhtiö Equinix ilmoitti liittyneensä mukaan hankkeeseen.

    Yhteenliittymän aloite on ensimmäinen kerta, kun ala osoittaa yhdessä sitoutuneisuutensa siihen, että datakeskukset Euroopassa ovat hiilineutraaleja vuoteen 2030 mennessä. Alan yhteisenä tavoitteena on toimia suunnannäyttäjänä Euroopan kehittyessä ilmastoneutraaliksi talousalueeksi.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How clean is cloud computing? New data reveals how green Google’s data centers really are

    Like many big tech players, Google has committed to becoming greener – and now the search giant has released some fresh data providing better insights into how well the company is sticking to its goals.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Digitalization with 5G enables further acceleration of climate action

    Digital technology may be our most powerful, scalable tool to tackle climate change. With 2020 showing digitalization can be rapidly accelerated, the same will be true when it comes to CO2 reductions. 5G opens up these new opportunities – why not use it to reach our goals faster?

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Kun avajaisseminaari muuttui koronatilanteesta johtuen virtuaalitapahtumaksi, saatiin Google Analyticsia hyödyntäen tieto siitä, mistä päin ja millaisilta päätelaitteilta tapahtumaa oli seurattu.

    Virtuaalitapahtuman hiilijalanjäljen laskennassa huomioitiin esimerkiksi käyttäjien päätelaitteiden virrankulutus, millä laitteella tapahtumaa on katsottu ja miten kauan, runkoverkon datansiirto siirretyn datan määrän mukaan sekä reitittimien ja modeemien liityntäverkon sähkönkulutus.

    Johtopäätöksenä oli, että yhden ihmisen edestakainen lentomatka Etelä-Euroopasta Suomeen on suurempi kuorma ympäristölle kuin virtuaalitapahtuma, johon osallistuisi jopa tuhansia ihmisiä.

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Aloitin DNA:lla ja yllätyin telealan päästömääristä – mutta töitä niiden vähentämiseksi tehdään hartiavoimin
    Aloitin DNA:n vastuullisuuspäällikkönä viime vuoden lokakuussa. Nyt aikaa on ehtinyt kulua jo sen verran, että kehtaa myöntää asioita, jotka yllättivät minut aloittaessani, kirjoittaa Tuuli Nummelin blogissaan.

    Oppi 1: ICT-alan osuus maailman sähkönkulutuksesta on noin 4–10 prosenttia ja alan kasvihuonekaasupäästöt ovat noin 3–5 prosenttia.

    Tiesitkö että sinunkin taskussasi on tällä hetkellä noin 0,034 grammaa kultaa, 16 grammaa kuparia ja 0,3 grammaa hopeaa, jopa vähän platinaa?

    Puhelinten kierrättäminen on fiksua niin ympäristön kuin ihmisoikeuksien kannalta.

    Oppi 2: Kierrätä kaikki vanhat puhelimet, tabletit ja tietokoneen asianmukaisesti – se on ympäristön ja yhteiskunnan kannalta kestävä teko.

    Oppi 3: DNA on onnistunut pienentämään päästöjänsä vuodesta 2015 jo yli 50 prosenttia. Jatkamme tiukkaa matkaamme kohti hiilineutraalia toimintaa.

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    About 1 percent of all electricity generated goes to cloud computing. By the end of this decade, we could be devoting 8 percent or more. Such growth cannot continue without something giving way.

    Cloud Computing’s Coming Energy Crisis

    How much of our computing now happens in the cloud? A lot. Providers of public cloud services alone take in more than a quarter of a trillion U.S. dollars a year. That’s why Amazon, Google, and Microsoft maintain massive data centers all around the world. Apple and Facebook, too, run similar facilities, all stuffed with high-core-count CPUs, sporting terabytes of RAM and petabytes of storage.

    These machines do the heavy lifting to support what’s been called “surveillance capitalism”: the endless tracking, user profiling, and algorithmic targeting used to distribute advertising. All that computing rakes in a lot of dollars, of course, but it also consumes a lot of watts: Bloomberg recently estimated that about 1 percent of the world’s electricity goes to cloud computing.

    That figure is poised to grow exponentially over the next decade. Bloomberg reckons that, globally, we might exit the 2020s needing as much as 8 percent of all electricity to power the future cloud. That might seem like a massive jump, but it’s probably a conservative estimate. After all, by 2030, with hundreds of millions of augmented-reality spectacles streaming real-time video into the cloud, and with the widespread adoption of smart digital currencies seamlessly blending money with code, the cloud will provide the foundation for nearly every financial transaction and user interaction with data.

    How much energy can we dedicate to all this computing? In an earlier time, we could have relied on Moore’s Law to keep the power budget in check as we scaled up our computing resources. But now, as we wring out the last bits of efficiency from the final few process nodes before we reach atomic-scale devices, those improvements will hit physical limits. It won’t be long until computing and power consumption will once again be strongly coupled—as they were 60 years ago, before integrated CPUs changed the game.

    Software and hardware engineering will no doubt reorient their design practices around power efficiency. More code will find its way into custom silicon. And that code will find more reasons to run infrequently, asynchronously, and as minimally as possible. All of that will help, but as software progressively eats more of the world—to borrow a now-famous metaphor—we will confront this challenge in ever-wider realms.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How Sustainable is a Solar Powered Website?

    We present our website’s energy and uptime data, calculate the embodied energy of our configuration, consider the optimal balance between sustainability and server uptime, and outline possible improvements.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Power at the Edge: the role of the data centre in sustainability

    In this webinar, learn how you can significantly reduce the power consumption in your data centre and dramatically contribute to your sustainability goals.

    The data center industry is responsible for approx 1-3% of the total electricity consumed around the world, with no sign of abating. And, while the amount of power per processing unit has been reducing, in reality, the real, actual amount of power has been increasing in line with total processing demands.

    External and internal pressures for transparency in sustainability practices are increasing, forcing organizations to declare their intentions and demonstrate the practical steps they are taking to make change. The data center is a natural place for organizations to start, and making fundamental, positive change is more achievable than ever before.

    The way that IT infrastructure is changing at the moment is more of it is going to be built in smaller, more distributed “edge” locations – locations that still pose very practical constraints when it comes to space, accessibility, power and cooling.

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nokia’s Approach to Sustainability: The Nokia People and Planet 2021 Report

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Liikenne- ja viestintävirasto Traficomin tutkimuksen mukaan viestintäverkkojen energiankulutus oli vuosi sitten kokonaisuudessaan noin 650 gigawattituntia. Mukana on niin kiinteät kuin langattomat matkapuhelinverkot.

    Kiinteän ja mobiilin verkon energiankulutuksessa oli Traficomin selvityksessä selvä ero, sillä’ radioverkot kattoivat vuosi sitten kokonaiskulutuksesta noin 60 prosenttia, kiinteät liityntäverkot noin 20 prosenttia ja muut verkkojen osat noin 20 prosenttia.

    Traficomin mukaan kiinteässä verkossa energiankulutus oli vuosi sitten 0,05 kilowattituntia (kWh) ja matkaviestinverkossa 0,12 kWh siirrettyä gigatavua (Gt) kohden, kun muiden verkonosien energiankulutus jaetaan tasan kummankin verkon kesken.


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