POSTNote on Energy Consumption of ICT

Policy Reports

Author: UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

On 1 September 2022, the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology released a four-page research briefing on energy consumption of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). It gives an overview of the use of energy of ICT (including data centres, communication networks, and user devices), forecasts future consumption and provides an analysis of trends that may affect it.

Estimates on the energy use of ICT are limited and uncertain. Studies use different methods and data sources to estimate consumption, which results in different numbers. For example, no peer-reviewed studies are available on the topic in the UK. At a global level, estimates based on industry energy use reports and market sales of ICT suggest that ICT accounted for 4-6% of all electricity consumed globally in 2020. This share is expected to increase over the next 5-10 years. However, predictions will vary given the uncertainty surrounding energy efficiency and emerging applications of ICT such as crypto-mining and machine learning.

Energy use can be divided into two categories: operational and embodied. This POSTnote focuses on the former, that is, on the energy consumed by equipment while in use. Finally, it discusses technical (improvement in electronic performance, data centre heat management, modernisation of communication networks, power management techniques, and edge computing) and non-technical strategies (regulation, standards, and monitoring) to improve the energy efficiency of ICT.