Warning! Wireless networks are energy monsters


By: SGN Staff


By Jesse Berst


Quick Take: A new report coming from Australia warns that industry has vastly underestimated the energy consumption resulting from more and more people accessing cloud services using portable devices. The popularity of these services is "driving a massive surge in energy consumption." Previous research has focused on the data centers that serve up the information. In reality, says the report, more than 90% of the energy consumption will come from the wireless networks that connect to the data centers.

My questions: Is the discrepancy for real? If so, it is enough to distort our forecasts of future load growth?


Melbourne's Centre for Energy Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) has for the first time calculated the energy consumption of the cloud computing "food chain." The report, "The Power of Wireless Cloud," warns that we have grossly underestimated the energy consumption of the cloud ecosystem. The energy use of cloud services is expect to grow as much as 460% between 2012 and 2015. Wireless access networks (WiFi and 4G LTE) will be responsible for 90% of that energy. Data centers will account for only 9%.


"The problem is that we're all accessing cloud services - things like webmail, social networking and virtual applications - over wireless networks," said Principal Research Fellow Dr Kerry Hinton. "It's the modern way but wireless is an energy monster, it's just inherently inefficient." Hinton was quoted on the Phys.Org web site.


The global telecommunications system is estimated to consume 2% of the world's energy, and that figure could grow to 10% by 2020 if no action is taken to make it more energy efficient.


Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.


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