TIAX Finds that Residential IT Energy Consumption is Significantly Higher than Previously Thought

A new study for the DOE analyzes current usage and projects key drivers, trends, and technologies that will shape residential IT energy consumption in the U.S. through 2010.

TIAX today released a detailed report on current U.S. residential information technology (IT) energy consumption along with scenario-based projections for 2010. The report, “U.S. Residential Information Technology Energy Consumption in 2005 and 2010,” which was commissioned by the Department of Energy (DOE), suggests that current energy consumption by IT equipment and systems within the home is significantly higher than previous estimates.

“Improved access to the Internet within the home, coupled with declining costs in equipment, has resulted in a significant increase in energy consumption by residential-based IT equipment over the past decade,” said Mr. David Rodgers, Head of DOE’s Building Technologies Program. “In addition to evaluating current energy consumption trends, this report provides important guidance as we work with other agencies and stakeholders on new programs and approaches that will encourage greater energy savings within residential IT systems.”

A team of TIAX researchers, led by Dr. Kurt Roth, identified ten key types of equipment, then evaluated their energy consumption in 2005 and developed projections for their energy consumption in 2010. The equipment included:

  • Desktop PCs
  • Digital Set-Top Boxes with Personal Video Recorder
  • Home Routers (wired and wireless)
  • Inkjet Printers
  • Laptop (Notebook) PCs
  • Monitors
  • Multi-Function Devices
  • Uninterruptible Power Supplies
  • Voice Over IP Adaptor
  • Broadband Access Devices (cable and DSL modems, satellite)

 

The accuracy of prior analyses of residential IT energy consumption has been limited by highly uncertain PC and monitor usage data. To address this major data gap, TIAX independently commissioned a survey to assess residential IT usage patterns in 1,000 demographically representative households. The study found that residential IT equipment consumed a total of about 42 terawatt per hour (TWh), which is significantly higher than prior estimates. PCs and monitors accounted for about seventy percent of the total energy consumed.

The TIAX study also developed three scenario-based projections of residential IT consumption in 2010. The projections reflected a number of variables including the fact that most equipment has a lifetime of less than five years, and will therefore be replaced by 2010, and that most IT equipment will continue to develop based on new technologies and new applications. For each scenario, the TIAX team developed 2010 projections of the total power draw by mode, usage patterns, and installed base:

  • PC Reigns – This projection assumes that desktop PCs remain the dominant equipment over laptops, etc. If this holds true, energy consumption is projected to increase to approximately 100TWh.
  • Ubiquitous Computing – Considered by TIAX as the most likely scenario for the U.S. market, this projects that portable and handheld devices continue to increase in the home, replacing more energy-heavy desktops and monitors, and resulting in a projected energy consumption of 53 TWh.
  • Greening of IT – This assumes that energy consumption by equipment becomes a major concern and that power-aware designs, such as set-top boxes with low-power modes, become the standard for IT systems. If this occurs, energy consumption would decrease from current usage to around 33 TWh.

“We believe these findings are the best estimates to date for the residential IT market,” said Dr. Kurt Roth, project manager and senior engineer in TIAX’s Building and Appliance group. “This study can help both the DOE and equipment manufacturers as they consider designs that best optimize power usage and thus encourage energy savings.”

Read the full report.