The electricity demand of our increasingly digital economies is growing at an alarming rate. While data centre energy demand has received much attention, of greater cause for concern is the growing energy demand of billions of networked devices such as smart phones, tablets and set-top boxes. In 2013, a relatively small portion of the world's population relied on more than 14 billion of these devices to stay connected. That number could skyrocket to 500 billion by 2050, driving dramatic increases in both energy demand and wasted energy.
Being connected 24/7 means these information and communication technology (ICT) devices draw energy all the time, even when in standby mode. This publication probes their hidden energy costs. In 2013, such devices consumed 616 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, surpassing the total electricity consumption of Canada. Studies show that for some devices, such as game consoles, up to 80% of the energy consumption is used just to maintain a network connection. Implementing best available technologies could reduce the energy demand of network-enabled devices by up to 65%. In the absence of strong market drivers to optimise the energy performance of these devices, policy intervention is needed.
Building on its experience in setting international policy for standby energy consumption of stand-along devices, the International Energy Agency uses this publication to set the stage for tackling the much bigger challenge of network standby. In exploring both policy and technology solutions, the book charts a path forward and identifies which stakeholders should take the lead in particular areas. An underlying message is that there is a need for international co-operation across all parts of the ICT value chain.
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Related publications and reports
More information on the topic of network standby, including reports, can be accessed here.
Beyond network standby: A Policy Framework and Action Plan for Low Energy Networks offers readers a framework for policy action to reduce energy consumption in digital networks. Readers are provided with an understanding of how networks operate and how products that are connected to a network can minimise energy use. Guiding principles are explained in terms of real world applications and the report concludes by recommending a path forward for energy efficiency policy to address energy waste in networks.
One of the pressing needs identified in the book is the need for data on the electricity consumption of network-enabled devices. This data can be used to develop baselines, to identify what product categories could require policy attention, and, ultimately, to check if policies have had an impact on the market.
One of the reasons for the current lack of data is that it is not easy to measure this consumption - data collection methodologies need to be developed. Consequently, a simple method has been developed to measure the consumption of devices connected to networks when they are on and when they are powered down but still retain a network connection. The following link and guidance provides access to free software and instructions how this can be used to measure the electricity consumption of devices connected to networks in homes, offices and shops. The software was developed for demonstration purposes but can be used as the basis for starting to collect data and starting to refine data collection methodologies.