Devices On Standby Account for 20% of IT Power Consumption

Devices On Standby Account for 20% of IT Power Consumption

Millions of computers and gadgets used by Australians for business and pleasure are contributing heavily to the nation’s greenhouse tally, a report produced for the Australian Computer Society by Connection Research clearly shows. IT equipment and use accounts for 7% of the nation’s electricity and 2.7% of his emissions.

Andrew Colley in The Australian (25 May 2010):

Millions of computers and gadgets used by Australians for business and pleasure are contributing heavily to the nation’s greenhouse tally, a report produced for the Australian Computer Society by Connection Research clearly shows.

The report, commissioned by the Australian Computer Society and said to be the first of its kind, finds that IT equipment last year consumed 7 per cent of the country’s electricity output and contributed 2.7 per cent of its carbon emissions.

Producing about 14.4 megatonnes of carbon dioxide last year, IT equipment had an emissions footprint on the scale of the large greenhouse polluters.

IT equipment emissions were 18.2 per cent of the size of transport (79Mt) and 53.2 per cent of industrial production (27Mt).

“By any estimation, (the IT sector’s) energy consumption and carbon emissions are significant proportion of Australia’s total,” the report’s authors wrote.

The report appeared to show a marked jump in greenhouse emissions caused by IT equipment since 2007, when the ACS calculated it at about 1.5 per cent of the total output.

Most of the increase was due to the inclusion of household devices such as home computers, game consoles and portable music players.

Otherwise, said ACS president Anthony Wong, enterprise and government greenhouse emissions had been stable. “It’s a mere 0.1 per cent increase over the last three years.”

The domestic contribution to IT systems’ greenhouse gas output accounted for 34.6 per cent of the sector’s total.

Mr Wong said that was because of increased blurring of the line between work and home.


For the complete report go to the websites shown below, but here is a summary for abc carbon express readers, including the key recommendations:

ICT is responsible for nearly 2.7 percent of Australia’s total carbon emissions. More significantly, it is directly responsible for more than 7 per cent of all electricity generated in Australia. These are significant figures, particularly given that Australia is one of the largest carbon emitters per capita in the world.

The findings published in a research report commissioned by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and released today. The figures were arrived at through detailed modelling of all ICT usage in Australia – enterprise, household, and telecommunications network infrastructure.

In 2009 Australia’s ICT users consumed 13.248 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, which caused 14.365 Megatonnes (Mt) of Scope 2 CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions. This compares to Australia’s total emissions of 539 Mt, and total electricity generated of 203 Mt.

The biggest components of ICT carbon emissions are data centre environment (18.8 per cent), PCs (15.8 per cent), printers and imaging equipment (15.7%) and servers (14.7%). But if video monitors are added to PCs, their total energy consumption exceeds a quarter of the total. Add games consoles, and the figure is nearly one third of the total. Games consoles consume five times more energy than mainframe computers.

Mobile phones and other portable devices, though widely used, account for only 1 per cent of ICT energy consumption, and fixed line telephones and related equipment less than 2 per cent. But data networking equipment accounts for more than 7 per cent, and the network infrastructure to support the voice and data another 8.6 per cent.

There is an almost even split between households (34.6 per cent), data centres (34.4 per cent) and a combination of other enterprise ICT usage (22.4 per cent) and network infrastructure (8.6%). The majority of data centre power consumption is accounted for by environmentals – mostly air conditioning and other types of cooling. The household figure is so high because of the sheer number of PCs and video monitors (and games consoles) they contain – an average of close to two devices per household, for over eight million households.

The report makes a number of recommendations:

  1. Work Harder on Data Centre Efficiency


Data centres are responsible for more than one third of Australia’s ICT footprint. The real culprit is data centre cooling – data centre environmentals consume more power than data centre ICT equipment. There are many techniques and technologies for increasing the energy efficiency of data centres – they all need to be implemented, and quickly.

  1. Reduce the Usage and the Number of Printers and Imaging Devices


Printers, multi-function devices, fax machines, scanners – they are real energy hogs. The report shows the massive amount of energy they use. Most people print too much, though the techniques for saving on printing are well known – print management, centralised printing, duplex printing (though its advantages are greatly overrated). The easiest thing is to simply print less, and on fewer printers. We don’t need all that paper, and we certainly don’t need all those printers.

  1. Turn Computers Off – Standby is Not Good Enough


Standby power is power wasted. The research for this study clearly shows that electronic devices left on when they are not being used constitute close to 20 per cent of all ICT power consumption. With some devices, like games consoles and video monitors, the waste is excessive. Turn them off at the wall when not in use, or implement power management systems that have the same effect.

  1. Think Green


There are many ways to reduce ICT power consumption. Most of them have to do with changing behaviour, not introducing new technology. Green ICT does not cost money, it saves money. All ICT users, from casual home users to power users in large corporations, should adopt a power saving attitude to everything they do in ICT.

  1. Use ICT to Reduce Carbon Emissions in Other Areas


We can work hard on reducing ICT’s carbon footprint, but much more significant savings can be made outside of ICT – improving business processes, making transport and electricity distribution and building systems and healthcare more efficient – working greener, not harder. Efficiency means green. They are the same thing. ICT has always been an enabling technology.

The report was researched and produced for the ACS by Sydney based market analysis company Connection Research. Research director and report author Graeme Philipson, a long time ICT industry journalist and analyst, says the report is the culmination of many months of work.

“A few people have talked about doing an analysis of this nature for some time now, but it always seemed too big a job. It’s great that the ACS has taken the initiative. The final result owes a lot to many individuals and organisations who contributed information and ideas. It has been extensively reviewed by many industry figures, and we believe the findings and the analysis will stand up to the closest scrutiny. We had to get it right.”

About the Australian Computer Society


The ACS is the recognised association for ICT professionals in Australia, attracting a large and active membership from all levels of the ICT industry. It is the public voice of the ICT profession and the guardian of professional ethics and standards in the ICT industry, with a commitment to the wider community to ensure the beneficial use of ICT.

About Connection Research


Connection Research is an Australian market research and analysis company with a focus on corporate and consumer usage of sustainable and digital technologies. Its primary methodology is demand-side research, surveying consumers of technology about usage patterns, attitudes and plans. It operates across four practice areas: Green ICT, Carbon and Compliance, Building Industry and Trades, and Community Sustainability.

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