How green is the Internet?
More than ever, people are using the Internet to shop, read, listen to music and learn. And businesses rely on Internet-based tools to operate and deliver their services efficiently. The Internet has created all kinds of new opportunities for society and the economy—but what does it mean for the environment?
We’ve been working to answer that question and enlisted the help of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to gather more data. Their study (PDF), released today, shows that migrating all U.S. office workers to the cloud could save up to 87 percent of IT energy use—about 23 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, or enough to power the city of Los Angeles for a year. The savings are associated with shifting people in the workforce to Internet-based applications like email, word processing and customer relationship software.
These results indicate that the Internet offers huge potential for energy savings. We’re especially excited that Berkeley Lab has made its model publicly available so other researchers and experts can plug in their own assumptions and help refine and improve the results.
Of course, understanding the impact of shifting office applications to the cloud is only part of the story, which is why last week we hosted a summit called “How Green is the Internet?” to explore these questions in greater detail. At the summit, experts presented data on how the growth of Internet infrastructure, including devices like phones and tablets, can impact the environment. We also saw great excitement about the potential for entirely new Internet-enabled tools in areas like transportation, e-commerce and digital content to deliver huge energy and carbon savings. We’ve posted the videos from those sessions and invite you to take a look.
One of our goals in hosting the summit and supporting the Berkeley Lab study was to identify and encourage new research on this topic. We’ll continue to work to answer some of these questions, and we hope others will too.