Energy End-Use Forecasting
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Information Technology and Resource Use

Key recent developments

As of Autumn 2003, leadership of the Network for E (N4E) is being taken over by Professor Scott Matthews of Carnegie Mellon, one of its founding members. Jon Koomey began a leave of absence from LBNL beginning in August 2003 (his LBL email and phone will still reach him while he's on leave).

Koomey et al., "Sorry, wrong number: The use and misuse of numerical facts in analysis and media reporting of energy issues.", which contains the most complete summary of the controversy over electricity used by office equipment, was published in the 2002 issue of Annual Review of Energy and Environment (also LBNL-50499). vol. 27,. pp. 119-158. Email for a copy.

Baer et al. "Electricity requirements for a digital society" was published at the end of 2002 RAND Corporation, MR-1617-DOE, ISBN 0-8330-3279-8. They concluded that projections of information technology totalling 50% of electricity use in twenty years are completely implausible. Instead, their scenarios project something under five percent for office and communications equipment in all cases by 2020.

A January 2002 report by Kurt Roth at Arthur D. Little (ADL) concludes that commercial sector office equipment electricity use in the U.S. is about 3% of all electric power use. When combined with our estimates for residential electricity use associated with office equipment (which totals 0.2 to 0.4% of all electricity use), the ADL results validates our assessment that total office equipment electricity use in the U.S. is roughly 3% of all electricity use (701K PDF). The ADL work also creates scenarios of future electricity use for office equipment, includes the energy used by telecommunications equipment, and gives data for a larger number of equipment types than did the Kawamoto et al. study (see below)

Project Description

This ongoing project explores the effects of computers and other information technology on resource use. In 1995, we published a comprehensive assessment of electricity used in commercial-sector office equipment (Koomey et al. 1995, below). This study also is summarized on the web. It did not address energy used by network hardware, but it did deal explicitly with stocks, energy use per unit, and operating hours to estimate total electricity used by commercial sector office equipment in the U.S. It compiled measured data on many of these parameters, which guided the creation of the scenarios generated in that report.

In the years since our 1995 study was published, the Internet has grown into a substantial force in the U.S. economy. In 1999, Mark P. Mills published a report for the Greening Earth Society (summarized in an article in Forbes Magazine) that attempted to calculate the "Internet related" portion of electricity use. This report claimed that electricity use associated with the Internet totaled about 8 percent of all U.S. electricity use in 1998 and that it would grow to half of all electricity use in the next decade. Subsequent to the publication of this report, there was an exchange of technical emails between Amory Lovins, Mark Mills, and others.

We examine Mills' calculations of current Internet-related electricity use in a technical memo. We find that Mills has significantly overestimated electricity use, in some cases by more than an order of magnitude. We adjust his estimates to reflect measured data and more accurate assumptions, which reduces Mills' overall estimate of total Internet-related electricity use by about a factor of eight.

In addition to estimating direct energy use associated with office equipment and related network hardware, we are beginning to assess the indirect effects of the Internet on the resource use of the U.S. economy. These effects include structural change (where new institutional arrangements and technological capabilities become possible because of the Internet) and substitution effects (where the new technologies substitute for established energy uses). The net effect of the Internet cannot be assessed without a comprehensive understanding of structural change and substitution.

On February 2, 2000, the House Subcommittee on National Economic Growth, Natural Resources, and Regulatory Affairs held hearings on "Kyoto and the Internet: the Energy Implications of the Digital Economy". At that hearing, Jay Hakes, Joseph Romm, and Mark Mills testified. Hakes' testimony dealt mainly with the data used to understand recent events in the overall economy, but he also concluded that Mills had overestimated electricity use substantially. Romm's testimony (largely replicated at a Senate hearing in September 2000) focused mainly on the indirect effects of information technology (IT) on resource use, and cited a large number of examples of how IT can reduce overall resource use. Mills' testimony attempted to address a few of the issues we raised, but his anecdotal response did not in any way invalidate the main conclusion of our memo (our line-by-line rebuttal addresses the points Mills raised in his testimony).

In June 2000, we completed another comprehensive assessment of office equipment energy use, and in February 2001 we completed final revisions on the analysis and added documentation. The final report includes electricity used by network equipment, and estimates total energy use for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. Note that this report does not focus just on the "internet related" portion of electricity use as the Forbes article does, so care must be used in comparing the findings of those two studies. We find that total electricity used by all office equipment in the U.S. is about 2% of all electricity use. Commercial sector office equipment electricity use is within 15% of that predicted for 2000 in our 1995 report (for those enduses that are comparable between the two reports), and the difference is explainable by more people leaving their computers and printers on at night than we expected in 1995. This report confirms the results of our earlier technical memo and 1995 report. The explosive growth in electricity demand that Mills alleges simply does not show up in the data.

In August 2000, Koomey finished a detailed rebuttal of Mills' congressional testimony, which addressed each and every point raised by Mills. The detailed calculations in the rebuttal show that electricity used for all office, telecommunications, and network equipment (including electricity used to manufacture the equipment) is about 3% of total electricity use in the U.S. This estimate is about a factor of four lower than the 13% claimed by Mills.

This story has received much attention in the media. Dr. Koomey has been interviewed by dozens of news organizations, including All Things Considered (NPR), Marketplace (8-9 minutes into the show), the SF Chronicle, Business 2.0, Salon.com, and Salon.com radio. A comprehensive summary of the details of the debate is contained in an article in Network Magazine.

For details on the causes of the California electricity crisis, download the presentation by Joe Eto and Chris Marnay of LBNL(Acrobat pdf format, 1MB, January 26, 2001). In spite of what many people believe, demand growth has been relatively modest in California over the past 10 years. The California Energy Commission has data on demand growth over time for California as a whole, as well as for Silicon Valley by itself. Both sources show modest growth in overall electricity use that is driven primarily by population growth and economic activity. The San Francisco Chronicle, after examining the data, concluded in a recent article that "soaring power use is more fiction than fact."

In May 2001, Jennifer Mitchell-Jackson finished her M.S. Thesis on electricity used by data centers. Koomey advised Ms. Mitchell-Jackson on this work, which carefully describes the reasons why most estimates of power used by these facilities are too high, and presents measured data on the power used by these facilities from both the top down (billing data) and the bottom up (counting equipment and measuring or estimating actual power used for each piece of equipment, then adding it up). It also gives our current best estimate of power used by these facilities for the U.S. as a whole, which is no more than 0.12% of all electric power at the end of 2000.

The August 2001 issue of Business 2.0 contains a summary of the debate over electricity use of office equipment: "Is the Net to Blame for the Energy Crisis?", by Todd Lappin.

A January 2002 report by Kurt Roth at Arthur D. Little (ADL) concludes that commercial sector office equipment electricity use in the U.S. is about 3% of all electric power use. When combined with our estimates for residential electricity use associated with office equipment (which totals 0.2 to 0.4% of all electricity use), the ADL results validates our assessment that total office equipment electricity use in the U.S. is roughly 3% of all electricity use (701K PDF). The ADL work also creates scenarios of future electricity use for office equipment, includes the energy used by telecommunications equipment, and gives data for a larger number of equipment types than did the Kawamoto et al. study (see below).

Kawamoto et al., "Electricity used by office equipment and network equipment in the U.S.", was published in the March 2002 edition of Energy--the International Journal. vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 255-269.

Mitchell-Jackson et al., "National and Regional Implications of Internet Data Center Growth." , was published in the October 2002 issue of Resources, Conservation, and Recycling (also LBNL-50534). vol. 36, no. 3. pp. 175-185.

The latter issue of Resources, Conservation, and Recycling (vol. 36, no. 3, October 2002) was a special issue on information technology and resource use edited by Jonathan Koomey, containing articles by researchers in the U.S., the Netherlands, and Germany.

Baer et al. "Electricity requirements for a digital society" was published at the end of 2002 RAND Corporation, MR-1617-DOE, ISBN 0-8330-3279-8. They concluded that projections of information technology totalling 50% of electricity use in twenty years are completely implausible. Instead, their scenarios project something under five percent for office and communications equipment in all cases by 2020.

Koomey et al., "Sorry, wrong number: The use and misuse of numerical facts in analysis and media reporting of energy issues.", which contains the most complete summary of the controversy over electricity used by office equipment, was published in the 2002 issue of Annual Review of Energy and Environment (also LBNL-50499). vol. 27,. pp. 119-158. Email for a copy.

The Journal of Industrial Ecology released in Spring 2003 a special issue on E-Commerce, the Internet, and the Environment (vol. 6, no.2, Spring 2002).

Mitchell-Jackson et al., "Data Center Power Requirements: Measurements From Silicon Valley." was published in the June 2003 issue of Energy--the International Journal (also LBNL-48554). vol. 28, no. 8. pp. 837 - 850.

Mark Mills has also claimed in many articles and speeches that the networking equipment supported a wireless Palm Pilot uses as much electricity as a refrigerator. The documentation for this claim has never been published, and Koomey has requested the documentation from Mills in email on nine separate occasions since 7 September 2000, with no response. You can read the email trail of these requests.

Project Staff

Jonathan Koomey

Kaoru Kawamoto

Bruce Nordman

Mary Ann Piette

Richard E. Brown

Alan H. Sanstad

Alan Meier

Jennifer Mitchell-Jackson

Key Data

Spreadsheet summarizing our assessment of internet electricity use, based on "The Internet Begins with Coal", but modified to reflect measured data and more accurate assumptions. Filename: internetelectpublic.xls. Format: MS Excel 97/98. Size: 28k. Last modified: December 9, 1999.

Spreadsheet containing the calculations for Kawamoto et al. 2001. Filename: Kawamotoforweb.xls. Format: MS Excel 97/98. Size: 156k. Last modified: November 25, 2000.

Presentation on causes of the California electricity crisis. Filename: Marnaypresentation010126.pdf. Format: Acrobat pdf format. Size: 1MB. Last Modified: January 26, 2001.

Previous Energy Commission Peak Electricity Demand Forecasts, California Energy Commission.

Silicon Valley Electricity Consumption, California Energy Commission.

Publications

Kawamoto, Kaoru, Jonathan Koomey, Bruce Nordman, Richard E. Brown, Maryann Piette, and Alan Meier. 2000. Electricity Used by Office Equipment and Network Equipment in the U.S. Published in the Proceedings of the 2000 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. Asilomar, CA. August. Abstract | 72K PDF

Kawamoto, K, Koomey, J, Ting, M, Nordman, B, Brown, R E, Piette, M and Meier, A (2001) Electricity used by office equipment and network equipment in the U.S.: Detailed report and appendices. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, LBNL-45917, February. 360k PDF.

Koomey, Jonathan G., Mike Cramer, Mary Ann Piette, and Joe Eto. 1995. Efficiency Improvements in U.S. Office Equipment: Expected Policy Impacts and Uncertainties. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. LBL-37383. December. | Executive Summary | 664K PDF

Koomey, Jonathan, Kaoru Kawamoto, Bruce Nordman, Mary Ann Piette, and Richard E. Brown. Memo to Skip Laitner of EPA: Initial comments on "The Internet Begins with Coal". LBNL-44698. Filename: Forbescritique991209.pdf. Format: Adobe PDF. Size: 60k. Last Modified: December 9, 1999.

Koomey, Jonathan G. 2000. Rebuttal to Testimony on ‘Kyoto and the Internet: The Energy Implications of the Digital Economy’. Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. LBNL-46509. August. 90K PDF

John A. "Skip" Laitner. 2000. "The Information and Communication Technology Revolution: Can It Be Good for Both the Economy and the Climate?" Discussion Draft, last modified 31 January 2000. 33K PDF

John A. "Skip" Laitner, Jonathan Koomey, Ernst Worrell, Etan Gumerman. 2001. "Re-estimating the Annual | Energy Outlook 2000 Forecast Using Updated Assumptions about the Information Economy". Presented at the American Economic Association Conference. New Orleans, LA. January 7. (also LBNL-46418). Abstract | 48K PDF.

Mitchell-Jackson, Jennifer. 2001. Energy Needs in an Internet Economy: A Closer Look at Data Centers. M.S. Thesis, Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley. May 16th. 424k PDF.

Nordman, Bruce. 1999. Memo to Jonathan Koomey on Electricity Requirements for LBNL's Networking Hardware. Filename: LBNLnetwork.doc. Format: MS Word 97/98. Size: 128k. Last Modified: December 9, 1999.

Other Resources

Cisco Systems: the biggest manufacturer of routers and other networking equipment.

FCC, Federal Communications Commission. 2003. Trends in Telephone Service. Washington, DC: Industry Analysis Division, Common Carrier Bureau. August.

Huber, Peter and Mark P. Mills. 1999. "Dig more coal - the PCs are coming: Being digital was supposed to mean less demand for hard energy. It isn't turning out that way," Forbes, May 31, 1999, pp 70-72.

Digital Economy 2002. This report from the U.S. Department of Commerce explores the role of E-Commerce in the new economy.

Information Technology Industry Council: The industry association that collects relevant data on sales of office equipment and related information technologies. See their latest ITI data book for details.

International Business Machines: IBM is one of the biggest manufacturers of mainframe computers, as well as many other types of electronic equipment.

Lucent: the biggest manufacturer of telephone switching devices installed in central offices

Mills, Mark P. 1999. "The Internet Begins with Coal: A Preliminary Exploration of the Impact of the Internet on Electricity Consumption". Greening Earth Society. Executive summary. Press release and information on ordering the report.

Network for energy, environment, efficiency and the information economy (N4E). This network of researchers fosters analysis of the physical aspects of information technology, focusing on resource flows, energy use, and environmental impacts associated with computing and network equipment.

NUA surveys: This company is a key source for information on how many people use the web, and how they use it.

Testimony on Kyoto and the Internet.

  • Testimony of Jay Hakes, Administrator, Energy Information Administration, DOE
  • Testimony of Joseph Romm, Executive Director, Center for Energy and Climate Solutions & Former Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE (We don't have an electronic copy of Romm's February 2, 2000 testimony, but we've linked to testimony he gave before the Senate in September 2000 that has much of the same material)
  • Testimony of Mark Mills, Scientific Advisor, Greening Earth Society & Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Exchanges between Mark Mills and Amory Lovins about Electricity Used by the Internet in Summer 1999. 292K PDF.

Sponsors

The 1995 study was funded by Dick Jones at the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Building Technologies, State, and Community Programs.

LBNL's work on the 1999 assessments of Internet electricity use and network electricity use and the later LBNL work on data center electricity use were funded by Skip Laitner at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric Programs.

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TEMA Group Site The Enduse Forecasting Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
 Last Updated On: 8/19/04