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ICT Sector Electricity Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions – 2020 Outcome

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Malmodin, Jens, Nina Lövehagen, Pernilla Bergmark, and Dag Lundén. 2023. “ICT Sector Electricity Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions – 2020 Outcome.” Rochester, NY: Social Science Reseach Network (SSRN).

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector has gained much attention in the discussions on climate change, as it could impact global emissions both positive and negative. The objective of the present study is to present estimates for the 2020 use stage electricity consumption and ICT sector’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions divided in three main parts user devices, networks and data centers. The study builds on a high number of data sources including measured and reported data from 150 companies that cover about 80% of network subscriptions, an estimated about 55% of datacenter electricity, and about 35% of upstream GHG emissions. To understand the development, the results are put into the perspective of earlier studies. In conclusion, the ICT sector used about 4% of the global electricity in the use stage and represented about 1.4% of the global GHG emissions in 2020. The user devices including internet-of-things accounted for over half of all GHG emissions, with equal parts relating to use stage and other lifecycle stages. For networks and data centers, the use stage GHG emissions are dominating. The electricity consumption in use stage and the total GHG emissions have increased since 2015, but the impact per subscriber has decreased. The electricity consumption and GHG emissions are also estimated for the closely related areas Entertainment and Media (E&M) including e.g., TVs and paper media, and the new area of cryptocurrencies.

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