The Internet should transition into clean energy

16 Apr 2018

The Internet, as is known, exists not only in the ether. Its infrastructure is an extensive network of data processing centres (servers), which intensively consume electricity. In 2010 they accounted for 2% of the US total electricity consumption, and therefore 2% of emissions into the atmosphere which lead to climate change. It seems 2% is not so much, but it is not little. If we hope to make our world cleaner, it’s time to take a closer look at the energy consumption on the Internet as well.

One thing is good: the Internet is already close to the complete transition to renewable energy. Leading companies are beginning to see the benefits ofrenewable sources of energy: connecting servers to them, they prove theircommitment to international obligations in the field of environmental protection and at the same they time do not overpay forenergy. And most importantly, renewable sources today can fully guarantee uninterrupted and predictable electricity supplies. In many states, especially in Texas and California, prices of electricity from renewable sources have already become quite competitive. Those who use clean energy are protected from jumps in the prices of electricity generated in the old way. A recent example: in July, Hewlett Packard announced it would provide,over the next 12 years,all of its Texas servers with electricity created by wind turbinesand could reduce at the same timetheir operating cost.  We are collaborating with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and nine other IT companies and hope to create together the Internetwhich entirely runs on clean energy.

Today, there is a real opportunity to improve the efficiency of servers, and many organizations are inventing very interesting, from the engineering point of view, ways to do this. But even with the most ingenious design, if a server is powered by electricity generated in the old way, this will have an increasingly noticeable impact on the overall pollution of the environment. Renewable sources are actively crowding out coal and hydrocarbons. This year, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at the US Department of Energy found out that more than 100 companies working in the field of information and communication technologies, which share accounts for about 1.5% of the total American electricity consumption, receive 14% of electricity from renewable sources. These firms have committed themselves to increase over the next five years the share of clean electricity by 30-50%.

Read the material on the topic: Why do companies invest in green technologies.

In the sources and ways of consuming electricity, an ecological revolution is being clearly outlined, and the heads of IT companies and organizations serving servers and cloud services should look for opportunities to participate in this movement. Exactly now it is time to invest in renewable energy sources, because:

  • Renewable sources will help companies cut costs. Today’s forecasts say that the price of electricity generated from renewable sources will decline, while traditional sources will slowly go up. Sharp jumps in electricity prices are also possible. The reliability of uninterrupted supply with traditional electricity is questionable. Inexpensive renewable sources will gradually appear in many regions and countries. For the present, most of the leaders, with whom we spoke, erroneously believe that wemean the so-called non-permanent sources.Indeed, renewable energy cannot be obtained around the clock, nevertheless,now it is possible to accurately predict when and in what amounts it will be available, and the forecasting tools are being constantly improved. More accurate forecasting and investment tools guaranteecost reduction when new green power plants start working.
  • In our days, a great number of renewable energy sources have appeared. With the appearance of “green” technologies in the electricity market, emerged lots of new opportunities. The new sources can be used along with traditional ones, and in the future we can completely go over to them.The increased demands of the largest IT companies forced electricity suppliers to take a closer look at the choice of sources. They also have to take into account the fact that some companies are ready now to disconnect fully from local networks, installing rooftop solar panels, and nearby wind turbines (if, of course, the climate allows). This will be enough to supply small servers and local data processing centres with electricity.
  • The one who remembers on time has an advantage, those who are late will be left behind. Google recently announced its intention to completely eliminate its negative impact on the climate. Other Internet giants, including Facebook and Adobe, also made environmental commitments. Almost forty companies, including IKEA, Autodesk, Walmart, have already promised to entire transition to renewable energy as part of the RE100 project. The international agreement signed by 196 countries in Paris on December 12 will accelerate this process at world level. Utilities and large corporations should consider this.
  • Some US states and a number of countries already offer favourable conditions. State regulation of electricity markets has not been agreed upon yet, and the policy in this field is very diverse: in some regions there can be seen a rapid development of renewable energy due to local favourable laws and incentives which allow commercial customers to communicate directly with suppliers or allow them to resell surplus electricity generated. Such groups as BSR’s Future of Internet Power and the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center help in this case to find buyers.

The 100% eco-friendly internet is within easy reach. For businesses, this means greater freedom of choice, lower costs, increased reliability of electricity supplies, – and an excellent opportunity to comply with corporate environmental commitments. The American energy industry is now undergoing unheard-of transformations. This happens once in a hundred years, and those companies, which will lead this common social trend, will become the leaders of the future economy.

Reporting by John Arlander


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