Since 2009, several emerging technologies have initiated broad and disruptive impact
across the ICT sector: cloud computing promises efficiency of scale both in terms of capital
and operational costs; high-speed wireless networks promise near-ubiquitous network access
and thin-client solutions (smart-phones and tablets) provide appropriate, low power user-
interfaces to take advantage of this emerging next-generation ICT infrastructure. But despite
claims that this new consumer ICT infrastructure can reduce the overall energy costs of
society’s new digital lifestyle, there are few studies that encompass the total energy costs of
consumer ICT devices and the supporting communications networks and associated data
centers that have become so essential.
This work brings together the work of many prior researchers, while also introducing a
number of new methodological approaches to estimate growth in the portion of global
electricity consumption that can be ascribed to digital consumer devices. Baseline estimates
for the main categories of consumption - direct, manufacturing related, network-related and
data-center related - are determined for 2012. A number of methodological approaches are
outlined to extrapolate trends over the period 2013-2017 and projections based on best-case,
expected and worst-case scenarios are provided.