Data centers consume a lot of power
Amazon, Google, and Netflix
Google aims for 100% of the electricity their business consumes to come from renewable sources. They also use artificial intelligence and other innovation to reduce their electricity consumption.
In a report from Greenpeace from 2017 where various apps and their underlying companies were rated based on the use of renewable electricity, Netflix received only D in the rating (Facebook and Youtube received top ratings, A, and Amazon Prime C).
Video streaming accounts for 60% of Internet traffic and Netflix viewing accounts for 35% of total Internet traffic. According to Greenpeace’s 2017 analysis, only 17% of Netflix’s electricity came from renewable sources in 2017 and 80% came from nuclear, gas and coal power.
Netflix compensates for the emissions generated by their electricity consumption.
Some data centers are part of the solution
A big reason why the internet consumes so much electricity is that data centers and their servers have to be cooled down. Building data centers underground or in countries with colder climates is, therefore, part of the solution.
Facebook has a large data center in northern Sweden and many other companies like Amazon and Microsoft have established themselves in nordic parts.
Since many northern countries are safe and stable countries with few natural disasters, colder temperatures, a lot of space, and good infrastructure, the data center and operation of these can become a new, more environmentally friendly, and future-focused industry in places where traditional industries have closed again.
What can we as consumers do?
As a private person, spending a little less time streaming youtube or spending less time online may not have such a big effect on your overall climate footprint.
There are those who have debated that we should talk “surf shame” in the same way we talk flight shame.
I think we need to talk about this and highlight that our activities on the internet, and how the internet is evolving, will have a greater and greater impact if we do not ensure the development of renewable energy sources at the same rate as we expand data centers.
We also need to pay attention to these issues and show the technology companies that this is a priority for us as consumers. All companies should take responsibility for how and where their data is stored.
Of course, you can also make some active consumer decisions by choosing which cloud and streaming services you use and examining these companies’ climate reports.