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Published on March 21st, 2016 | by Brandon Engel

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PC Games and Internet Energy Use

 

The facts may be surprising, but the already-observable effects of climate change and global warming indicate that we are all responsible for the Earth’s diminishing supply of natural resources. Oftentimes we don’t stop to think about the impact that the Internet – and its endless supply of video, gaming, and other data-heavy content – has upon the overall environment.

 

While no one is asking you to stop surfing and playing games altogether, it’s worth looking in closer detail at the way our entertainment affects the world around us. According to recent studies, the average PC game computer uses as much energy as three refrigerators in a single year.

Energy Implications of Tech and Gaming

 

As the gaming and Internet industries expand across the globe, energy expenditures also grow. Over 20 percent of the energy consumed by computing technologies comes from gaming PCs, which is a massive figure since only 2.5 percent of all computer equipment is dedicated to gaming. On average, a single gaming PC that is optimized for running League of Legends uses 1400 kWh per year. In terms of monetary costs, all of the gaming equipment in the world use about $10 billion worth of energy. In addition to PCs, this statistic includes dedicated gaming consoles like the PS4 and the Xbox One.

 

To compound the issue further, the use of gaming PCs is expected to increase as equipment becomes cheaper to produce. As people shift to powerful high-end components that have high energy requirements, more fossil fuels will be used and energy costs will rise. According to a study by Evan and Nathaniel Mills, this problem can be solved without curbing gaming habits. With a few minor tweaks by equipment producers, gaming PCs can expend less energy with only minor performance drawbacks.

Internet Companies Set the Green Standard

 

While it may seem that the large corporations in Silicon Valley are contributing to the world’s energy consumption problems, some of the most prominent companies are challenging the fossil fuel industry by incorporating more solar and wind into their overall energy mix. Google, Facebook, and Apple have made significant strides, and there are signs that solar is beginning to gain more significant traction than ever before. In fact, this past year in 2015, solar actually topped natural gas in terms of new generating capacity, according to ATCO. The leaders of these large Internet companies understand that green energies are cost-effective, but they also know that the future will be built with solar and wind instead of fossil fuels. This foresight has caused innovators like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tim Cook to invest heavily in alternative energy technology and development.

 

There are, of course, still many large Internet companies that have a less than “clean” record. Consumers that want to make sure their devices and data are supported by clean energy can look to Greenpeace’s browser extension called the Click Clean Scorecard, which assigns an energy report to top websites. This report is based on a variety of factors, including the use of and commitment to green energy, and will hopefully encourage companies to employ cleaner methods as consumers become more aware of their energy impact.

 

Looking to the “Click Clean Scorecard” and other sustainability reports is only one of the first steps towards empowering the people and opening the way for a truly “green” economy. For people to take action they must first understand that their behavior – even online – is directly responsible for the health of the planet they call home.

 


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