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Sunday, April 24, 2011

How Dirty Is Your Data: 'Internet' a bigger polluter than India

NEW DELHI: Data centres, that powers most of the internet are big energy guzzlers, says a study conducted by Greenpeace, non-governmental environmental organization. In 2007, the data centres run by companies like Google, Akamai, Yahoo and Apple etc consumed 662 billion kWh energy. In comparison, India consumed 568 billion kWh.

The report - titled How Dirty Is Your Data - states that if the internet had been a country, it would have occupied fifth position in the list of most polluting nations. The report says that even though most IT companies understand the need for energy efficiency and strive to save as much power as possible, they do not show any urgency to seek clean energy. As a result, many data centres and IT-related infrastructure are powered by energy obtained from coal.

"Server farms are expanding and multiplying rapidly. In our technologically interconnected world, data centres are the factories of the 21st Century," the report says. "The technologies of the 21st century are still largely powered by the dirty coal power of the past, with over half of the companies (studied for the report) relying on coal for between 50% and 80% of their energy needs."

The Greenpeace report specifically takes a look at India's "mobile revolution" and the effect it is likely to have on environment. "In India, nearly 40% of three lakh telecom towers exist in rural and semi-urban areas where either the grid-connected electricity is not available or the electricity supply is irregular ... (in such areas) telecom operators are turning to diesel generators to produce adequate electricity to power the network, which adds a new and heavy source of air and carbon pollution ," says the report.

"The consumption of diesel by the telecom sector currently stands at a staggering two billion litres annually, second only to the railways in India," says the report.

Greenpeace also lambasts IT companies for their secretive ways when it comes to show accountability on energy consumption. "There is currently a double standard in the IT sector when it comes to transparency. IT companies want consumers to trust them with greater and greater access to their personal information, but are unwilling to be transparent about their own energy and carbon footprint," says the report.

Among the IT majors, Yahoo! has been deemed greenest while Apple, largely because of its iDataCentre in North Carolina, was found to have the worst 'green rating'. Among India companies, Greenpeace lauds Wipro for demonstrating "greater transparency" on its energy consumption.

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