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Re: Paperless hospital?--IT energy use

Dear colleagues--

A previous posting asks some good questions about the reality and environmental friendliness of "paperless" operations.   However regarding "It has been argued that downloading a book or sending a 1 mb file around the world requires a  'lump of coal,'" there are now some good analyses refuting this claim.

For those interested see Jonathan Koomey, et al., "Sorry, Wrong Number: The Use and Misuse of Numerical Facts in Analysis and Media Reporting of Energy Issues," in Annual Review of Energy and Environment,  2002. 27:119-58.

An excerpt follows:

"How Much Electricity is Used by Office Equipment?

"THE ISSUE Some of the most widely cited statistics during California's energy crisis in 2000 and 2001 ostensibly indicated that the Internet used 8% of all U.S.
electricity, that all office equipment used 13%, and that total office equipment electricity use would grow to half of all power use over the next 10 to 20 years.
These numbers all originated in an article for Forbes by Peter Huber and Mark Mills in May 1999 (23), based on a report written by Mills (24). The Mills report
estimated the electricity used by eight categories of energy-using equipment or processes associated with the Internet:
	1. Major dot-com companies
2. Web sites
3. Telephone central offices
4. Personal computers (PCs) in offices
5. PCs at home
6. Routers on the Internet
7. Routers in local area networks and wide area networks
8. Energy to manufacture equipment

"Mills calculated energy use for equipment in each category by multiplying estimates of the power used by the population and operating hours for each device.
The Forbes estimates appeared when the Internet boom was at its peak. At that time, the information technology industry had captured the imagination of U.S.
society as a force that would revolutionize both consumer lifestyles and business practice. Many people therefore found it plausible that such an important part of
the U.S. economy should also use significant amounts of electric power, which was one reason for the rapid proliferation of these statistics.

"In subsequent research, Koomey et al. (25) demonstrated that the Huber and Mills estimate of Internet power use was at least a factor of eight too high, and
Kawamoto et al. (26, 27) and Koomey (28) showed that the Forbes estimate of total office equipment electricity use was a factor of four too high. Recent analysis
by Roth et al. (29) at Arthur D. Little (now Tiax) also corroborated these findings. Creating credible estimates of electricity requirements for information technology
is fraught with difficulty. The underlying data are not known with precision, the empirical data are limited, the most useful data are often proprietary, and the
technology is changing so rapidly that even accurate data are quickly obsolete. Forecasts of future growth in power use are even less reliable. Nevertheless, much is already known about information technology electricity use, and we bring that information to bear in the sections below."

(. . . )   The paper analyzes this case extensively and then concludes the section with:

"SUMMARY The claim that information technology uses large amounts of electric power proliferated quickly, driven by a superficially plausible story line and a
high-profile crisis in the California electricity sector. Forbes itself lent credibility to the argument simply by publishing it. The trade press and the popular media
repeated the key claims in the Forbes article, often without citing a source, thus enshrining the erroneous statistics as common knowledge. Leaders in business,
government, and academia were misled by this barrage of media attention and cited the statistics widely, thus ensuring their proliferation."


Rodney Sobin
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Postal: P.O. Box 10009, Richmond, VA 23240-0009
Street:  629 E. Main St., Richmond, VA 23233-2429
Tel. 804-698-4382	fax 804-698-4264  Rsobin@deq.state.va.us
DEQ Innovative Technology http://www.deq.state.va.us/innovtech
Chesapeake Bay Program Innovative Technology http://www.chesapeakebay.net/innovative.htm <http://www.chesapeakebay.net/innovative.html> 
Virginia Environmental Services Network http://www.vesn.org

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