- The majority of the energy is used for cloud services, not charging the iPhone
- The majority of the energy used to power the cloud comes from coal
- In the next two decades, servers will require almost as much energy as lights
By Ryan Gorman
PUBLISHED: 13:35 EST, 18 August 2013 | UPDATED: 13:35 EST, 18 August 2013
Your iPhone guzzles more energy than your refrigerator.
iPhones burn through significantly more energy than a new mid-sized refrigerator, according to a new study. The average new mid-sized refrigerator uses about 322 kilowatt hours a year while your iPhone uses about 361 kilowatt hours annually. The majority of that energy isn’t used to charge your battery, it’s used to power data centers responsible for the wireless connections and data streaming that bring your device to life.
This revelation was made in ‘The Cloud Begins with Coal: Big Data, Big networks, Big Infrastructure and Big Power,’ a paper published by the technology investment advisory Digital Power Group.
Energy guzzler: A customer shows her new iPhone 5 at the Apple store in Hong Kong
The world’s communications systems use 1,500 terawatt hours – 10 per cent of global energy and as much as Germany and Japan combined, according to the paper. The usage is equal to total global electricity usage in 1985.
Just one terawatt hour is enough to power roughly 90,000 homes for an entire year.
With more and more devices being ‘smart’ or ‘connected’ each day, hourly internet traffic is expected to exceed annual internet traffic in the year 2000, the paper says.
A lot of energy is needed to power the world’s communications backbone, and a lot more is going to be needed in the future as more and more server farms are fired up to stream Netflix to whatever is in your pocket, backpack or purse.
More efficient than an iPhone: This refrigerator uses less energy than an iPhone
By 2035, only slightly less energy will be needed to power ‘the cloud’ than for lights, the paper estimates.
It takes more energy to stream a few episodes of Breaking Bad to your iPhone than it does to stamp them onto a DVD and ship them to you, according to the paper.
One of the world’s largest consumers of cloud data, not surprisingly, is Apple, and it takes a lot of juice to handle all those iPhones and iPads.
Unfortunately, the bulk of this energy comes from coal, over 55 percent in Apple’s case, according to Greenpeace.
The SUV of phones: iPhones use more energy than refrigerators
‘Coal’s dominance arises from the importance of keeping costs down while providing ever-greater quantities of energy to the growing economies, and as the IEA recently noted, the absence of cost-effective alternatives at the scales the world needs,’ says the paper.
As long as coal continues to be the world’s cheapest source of energy, it likely will also be the most used, further contributing to global warming. Since global data usage isn’t going to drop, Apple might have the answer.
Apple is working towards using 100 per cent renewable energy, and is already 75 per cent of the way there, according to its website.
Using solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal power sources, Apple has its sights on becoming as close to carbon neutral as possible – other companies should take note.