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Future ICT energy needs are virtually unknown

The consequences of the growth of information and communication technologies on energy consumption are hardly predictable. The German Energy Agency (dena) sees a need for research.

03 Jan. 2018
Claudia Witte
(Chart: dena)

In a meta-study , dena’s experts addressed ten international studies on the evolution of energy use in ICT and came up with some sobering conclusions: The only coherent consensus is that the new technologies will require more energy, especially in data centers.

But a holistic view, in which the savings potentials are taken into account, is missing. Smart metering systems, smart home applications, and energy-saving apps are already contributing to increased energy efficiency in businesses and private households. On the other hand, the energy hunger of compute-intensive technologies, such as the blockchain, considered holistically, could also result in an increased energy demand. Dena criticizes the lack of reliable data bases for such forecasts and calls for a quick closing of this research gap.

In fact, some technical innovations consume frighteningly much energy. For example, according to an estimate by Digiconomist , world-wide production of the digital currency Bitcoin consumes about the same amount of electricity as the entire country of Bulgaria, while a single Bitcoin transaction would use more energy than eight typical US households use throughout an entire day.