Energy trends in ICT, 2013-2030

Over the period 2008-2013 Dutch ICT-related energy consumption remained stable. In 2013 total electricity consumption by ICT stood at 9.4 TWh, or 8% of the national total. Three-quarters of this, 6.9 TWh (6%), was used by households and businesses. The remaining quarter, 2.5 TWh (2%), was consumed by the ICT sector itself, largely by data centres (1.4 TWh), followed by telecom companies (1.0 TWh). Increased consumption by data centres over this period is limited compared with the pronounced growth of ICT services and data traffic. In the telecom sector we in fact see a decrease in energy consumption, in absolute terms, even though fixed and mobile data traffic has been growing structurally by dozens of percentage points annually. Over this period the amount of energy used by consumer ICT appliances has decreased by 20% thanks to more efficient technology and growth of online applications.

Estimates for 2020 and 2030 were made on the basis of five ‘megatrends’ that will largely determine future energy consumption in this area. Growth in interconnectivity, the internet of things and increased data collection and use will lead to increased energy consumption. On the other hand, ongoing trends of consolidation in the cloud and improvements in appliance efficiency will continue, with a marked positive impact. On balance, until 2020 a 10-20% decrease in ICT-related energy consumption is forecast relative to 2013. Towards the 2030 horizon the forecast range becomes broader, varying from a 22% decrease to a 14% increase.

Based on the study results, the government is recommended to continue its efforts to incentivize het energy efficiency, via the Long-Term Agreement for the ICT sector (MJA-ICT), among other means. ICT providers are advised to implement only energy-efficient solutions. ICT users, too, are recommended to opt for efficient solutions and exercise greater awareness in appliance usage. Finally, recommendations are made for a follow-up study on the described trends and on the positive impact of ICT solutions for energy consumption in other sectors.