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Your iPhone amazingly uses more energy than your refrigerator

3 min read

  • 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 

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 

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 

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.

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