How much energy do you use when you stream, game or email? The EU wants you to know.

How much energy do you use when you stream, game or email? The EU wants you to know.
Photo by Marvin Meyer / Unsplash

The European Commission has launched a study and a campaign to raise awareness about the energy consumption of common digital actions, such as streaming videos, gaming online or sending emails. The study, which assessed the energy impacts of ten digital behaviours, is part of the EU’s strategy to reduce the carbon footprint of the ICT sector, which is expected to double by 2030.

The study, conducted by Ramboll Management Consulting and Resilio, found that the energy consumption of digital actions varies widely depending on the type, duration and frequency of the activity, as well as the devices and networks used. For example, one hour of video conferencing consumes on average 0.128 kWh of electricity, while one hour of social networking uses only 0.024 kWh. Downloading a 1 GB file to a PC requires 0.004 kWh, while storing the same amount of data in the cloud for one year consumes 0.07 kWh.

The study also identified some best practices to save energy when using digital services, such as reducing the resolution or quality of streaming content, turning off devices and routers when not in use, prolonging the lifespan of mobile phones and laptops, and deleting unnecessary emails and files from the cloud.

The study’s authors acknowledge that the energy impacts of digital actions might seem negligible when taken individually, but they become significant when performed repeatedly over time by millions of users. They estimate that if all EU citizens adopt more sustainable digital habits, they could save up to 5% of the electricity consumption of the ICT sector in 2030.

The European Commission plans to use the study results to launch a communication campaign to inform and educate citizens about the energy consumption of their digital actions and encourage them to adopt more energy-efficient behaviours. The campaign is part of the EU’s broader action plan for the digitalisation of the energy sector, which aims to ensure that the growing energy needs of the ICT sector are met in synergy with the climate neutrality objective.

Are you willing to change your digital habits to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint? Or do you think the responsibility lies with the ICT sector and policymakers to make digital services more efficient and sustainable?