These days when you Googled you saw symbols showing that Google was promoting solar and wind energy. Personally as an investor in both I support that move. But when I saw the icons I remembered a dinner with Larry Page at the Clinton Global Initiative in NYC last September when I asked him what he thought was the limits to growth of Google and much to my surprise he did not say servers, or people, but he said electricity. It turns out that Google is by now the largest owner of computers in the world and that computers are consuming more and more of the electricity that is used in the world. Therefore Google has the largest utility bill in the planet. And Larry is concerned about this. And not because of the bill itself but because he truly cares about the polluting effect of Google (do no evil). We tend to think of the internet as a very clean industry. It´s hard to imagine eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft, Google as being responsible for global warming but partly they are, they are hardly carbon neutral and in a small way, nor is Fon. What can we do about this? In the case of Google I wonder if there is a different way of searching that could save a lot of energy. One idea is that if all sites pinged Google a la Technorati, instead of Google crawling them that would save a lot of MWs!

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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google.dirson.com on April 25, 2006  · 

Check also this article about Google electricity needs :
http://acmqueue.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=330

Have you ever thought about the next revolution? If the WWW was “we the media” and Fon was “we the telcos”, could be possible a “we the utilities” revolution with distributed generation?

Antoin O Lachtnain on April 26, 2006  · 

Why not locate the servers in the basements of large buildings in countries with temperate or cold climates? The ascending heat would mean other types of heat would no longer be needed in the building, thereby reducing the carbon impact. Also, less air conditioning would be required.

Martín Varsavsky on April 27, 2006  · 

google.dirson.com,

I think the first opportunity is with gas. Converting gas into electricity at people´s homes and using the heat as well.

Regards,

baruk on April 28, 2006  · 

I’m sorry to say this, but I really doubt Google being the biggest electricity consumer.

If Google has 100k computers (according to Wikipedia), or even 200k, consuming 200W each, they are consuming 20 or 40 MegaWatts. Which is not that much at all.

Doug Toombs on April 29, 2006  · 

Ah, I can just see it now. The first headline would read “Google opens new datacenter at Southern Pole”, and then the last headline that YOU would be alive to read would go something like “Google accidentally melts polar ice cap – planetwide flooding inevitable.”

That’s it, I’m moving to Denver.

:-)

Koen on May 6, 2006  · 

Hi Martin,

Check also following article related to this topic:

“Microsoft’s cash versus Google”
http://money.cnn.com/2006/05/05/technology/fastforward_fortune/index.htm?source=yahoo_quote

Quite an interesting read!

BR
Koen

Martín Varsavsky on May 9, 2006  · 

Thanks Koen, David´s story is very relevant and emphasizes how important electricity is for these giants.

Regards,

Rainer Wasserfuhr on June 1, 2006  · 

Alcoa, one of the current world market leaders in aluminium production consumes 96 GigaWh per day, so in average 4 GigaWatt. So following the numbers of Baruk, Google would only consume 1% of Alcoa.

Martín Varsavsky on June 1, 2006  · 

It would make sense that Alcoa be the largest consumer in the world, as aluminum smelting is basically one huge electricity bill combined with a similar alumina bill.

Regards,

Futrbllnr on June 11, 2006  · 

I just wanted to point out that that Alcoa website says that they generate, not consume, 96 GWH.

eqycw7f@search.com on March 20, 2007  · 

funny ringtones

Vincent on February 4, 2008  · 

Google is the largest electricity consumer for IT companies.

Big deal. Of course they are, they have more computers than most.

They make tons of money because they have very low costs. An easy way to increase profits is to reduce electricity consumption.

Reg on March 31, 2009  · 

Putting things into perspective:

Google does not disclose any figures about their environmental impact – but it’s still a fraction of what other industries are polluting. Let’s compare Yahoo to Intel for example: Intel (85k employees – 3.6 MTCO2 per year) – spits out twice as much CO2 per employee as Cisco or Yahoo. Other like-for-like comparisons can be made on http://co2benchmark.com/production/info . The cost of serving a page is still a fraction of the cost of building, shipping, and retailing the hardware you’re using.

Outside of the tech world: manufacturing cement alone is responsible for 5% of all CO2 produced by mankind on earth – just check out http://co2benchmark.com/top-carbon-emitting-companies Only a couple of manufacturers dominate the cement industry (Cemex, Lafarge, Eiffage….) – so each of these have massive impacts.

Anyway – Google is still a small drop in the ocean compared to the more pressing need for change in other industries.

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