Rapid growth in internet communication in the last decade has augmented and, to some extent, replaced other means of information transfer. This paper attempts to calculate the energy used by “the internet” in transferring a discrete quantity of information and the associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In this case, we aim to determine the energy used to deliver online advertising to a user. Based on our level of confidence in the information currently available, this analysis is in an early stage that needs significant improvement to become more than an order-of-magnitude estimate. While others have attempted to quantify the energy used in the United States by delivery of information services via the internet, these analyses have focused principally on end-use equipment (PCs and other devices that users interact with directly) or on servers. In this paper we attempt to calculate an average energy use per gigabyte of data transferred over the internet by quantifying the network energy and data traffic. This estimate includes energy used by network equipment up to either A) the user’s terminal in business settings or B) the edge of the user’s home. We take a similar approach here to the analysis in Koomey (2004), which explores network energy and data flows associated with wireless personal digital assistants. This paper calculates the best estimate of network electricity intensity possible using currently available data. It first illustrates the data and methodology used, then presents the results and discusses implications. Finally it describes conclusions and suggests topics for further research.
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