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13 July 2015

Web use and digital technology reveal a voracious appetite for energy

Greenpeace analyses the energy consumption of the global computer giants’ data centres.

While the methods of some Greenpeace protests can be called into question, there is no denying the courage and determination they have shown for many years in their commitment to reduce the threats of manmade pollution.

That’s why the results of their analysis of the Web’s energy consumption, which they has worked on for years, cannot be ignored. While on the one hand global Internet use saves paper and reduces transportation, on the other it consumes a lot of electricity to send data from an office in Milan to one in Singapore, for example, and from a house in France to an igloo in the North Pole. In terms of energy use, the costs far outweigh the savings.

However, an immediate, effective solution is available for the Internet giants. The virtual world is the sixth largest “country” in terms of energy consumption. Greenpeace has raised the alarm but has also suggested they should use alternative energy: solar and wind power. How can a call to reverse the situation and produce a better, safer world be ignored? However, that’s exactly what some countries are already doing, especially those with a vested interest in the sector, namely Taiwan, Virginia and North Carolina in the United States.

Some of these recalcitrant regions are associated with important Web sites, such as Amazon for example. Despite having given positive signals with renewable energy projects, to date the Virginia-based company only uses 23% alternative energy. Meanwhile, among the Internet’s largest companies, Apple is the most determined to follow the path to 100% green energy, followed by Yahoo, Facebook and Google, although currently with lower targets. According to Greenpeace, these companies should form a coalition and push governments towards a programme of using energy from 100% renewable sources.


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