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Energy Efficiency

Internet Reducing American Energy Use


The internet is saving 10 times the energy required to run an internet-linked computer.

Remember when renting a movie required a trip to the video store or checking a bank balance required a visit to the bank? Now, anything from used books to driving maps are just a click away. Telecommuting is common and taxes can be submitted electronically to the IRS. The internet is shaping our lifestyles, allowing us to save energy.

A recent study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) discovered that every kilowatt-hour of electricity used to power communications and information technologies is resulting in a 10 fold increase in energy savings.

“Acceleration of information and computer technology across the US landscape post 1995 is driving much of the nation’s energy-productivity gain,” says John Laitner of the ACEEE and coauthor of the study. “Had we continued at the historic rate of prior years, we would today be using the energy equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil more [per year] than we were” in the early 1990s.

Energy intensity is a measurement of the quantity of energy required to produce one dollar of output and is a good indicator of overall energy efficiency. After the oil embargo, the energy intensity in American fell sharply. From 1986 to 1996 however, energy efficiency improvements fell to under 1% annually.

Around 1995, the use of the internet began to increase significantly. Remarkably, from 1996 to 2001, energy intensity fell by an average of 2.9% annually. This trend has continued since 2001 at a pace of 2.4% annually, with half of it being attributed to technology gains.

The energy saving impacts of information and communications technology can expand through mindful use. Purchasing models that consume less energy, selecting optimal energy settings, and using a laptop instead of a PC all save electricity.

I am happy to know that my beloved computer is helping me to reduce my energy use and studies such as this remind me of how technology can be used as a tool for a greener lifestyle. The future potential is staggering as energy costs increase, concern of climate changing mounts, and the use of the internet expands over time.

Internet Helps Americans Save More Energy Each Year

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Written By

is passionate about the new green economy and renewable energy. Sarah's experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative. When she can escape the internet vortex, she enjoys playing in the forest, paddling down rivers, or twisting into yoga poses.


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