energy crisis. Here’s Why “Sobriety” Also Involves Our Internet Use

How will the weather be this weekend? How old is Brad Pitt? What route do they take to reach a meeting place? For every question we ask ourselves, the Internet has the answer. French people between the ages of 15 and 64 spend an average of 2h 26 a day to work, communicate, search for information or simply pass the time. In Internet in 2021, according to figures from mediametry. A duration that reaches almost 4 hours between 15-24 years.

Apparently, all you need is a box plugged into an outlet to be able to browse the web. But, in fact, the Internet is not as dematerialized as it seems and its operation consumes a lot of energy. At a time when the French are called to energetic sobrietylimit the use of the Internet, can it be a solution?

A lit internet box consumes as much as a refrigerator

Difficult to know precisely how much electricity Internet use represents in France. According to Julia Meyer, an engineer from the circular economy department of the Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (Ademe), electricity consumption includes “both user equipment, infrastructure and equipment used for data storage”. In particular, computers, tablets and smartphones consume energy, as does the network that uses them, but also the research that is carried out on these precious tools.

As an example, “It is estimated that all the Internet boxes in France require the energy produced by a section of the nuclear power plant”, that is to say, a reactor, specifies Didier Mallarino, researcher at the CNRS and member of the management of the Groupement de service (GDS) Écoinfo. An illuminated box, even unused, “It has an energy consumption equivalent to that of a refrigerator », Julia Meyer points out.

“Digital technology alone represents 10% of French electricity consumption”, explains Julia Meyer, who points out that this participation increases as new uses are developed, such as the Metaverse, cryptocurrencies or even the deployment of 5G.

Each connection consumes energy.

And for good reason, the more data circulates, the more electricity consumption increases. To send an email, for example, whether from a computer, tablet or smartphone, opening an Internet tab or a dedicated application requires power. A need that will be even more important if this message is accompanied by an attachment.

Sent to the data center – a data processing center that brings together all the equipment necessary for the operation of the information system – of the telecommunications company to which the sender has subscribed, this email is received, processed and stored for its transmission to the network. , What details the addition. It then goes through the channels to the data center of the correspondent’s access provider. There, the message is again received, processed, stored and transmitted to the network, until it reaches its recipient. A long way still traveled in the space of a few seconds.

Data centers themselves consume a lot of energy, although innovations tend to make them cheaper. These servers, which work with a multitude of computers and telecommunications equipment, are permanently connected to guarantee data traffic day and night, anywhere in the world. “Closing a data center would mean no longer having access to the Internet services hosted there,” Julia Mayer explains.

As the use of the web continues to grow over the years, more and more spaces of this type are needed and, correlatively, more and more energy is needed to make them work. Especially since it is necessary to cool them, since the equipment, in permanent operation, emits a lot of heat.

A 4G connection consumes ten times more than Wi-Fi

These data centers, and before them the networks, are more or less in demand depending on user practices. “Any wireless connection requires a search and therefore an energy consumption”, says Emmanuelle Frenoux, a researcher at the University of Paris-Saclay at the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Digital Sciences (LISN), also a member of GDS Écoinfo. Clearly, keeping Wifi and Bluetooth on consumes electricity, even when the user is not using it. “When you don’t need 4G, you need to turn off your mobile data, otherwise the system is constantly working.” complete Didier Mallarino.

The use of 4G is the most energy-intensive way to surf the Internet, says the CNRS researcher: “The wired network is ideal, or otherwise Wifi. » Compare, “a 4G connection consumes ten times more than a Wi-Fi connection”, adds Didier Mallarino, who summarizes: “The more the battery drains, the more it means the user consumes power. »

Gestures for a more sober use of the Internet

Yes he is “I can’t turn off the internet” On a global scale, even for a few hours, says Julia Meyer, small steps are possible to reduce the share of this use in total electricity consumption. Y finallyon the consumer’s bill.

In the first place, all the researchers questioned are unanimous, “you should turn off your internet box when not in use”. “At night for example and during the day when people are not at home”, suggests Anne Faure, digital economy project manager at France Strategy. “This could reduce its share of total consumption by between 20 and 30%,” believed Didier Mallarino.

Also read: Cut Wi-Fi, reduce heating… How much can you really save with eco-gestures?

Appreciated at night, in transport or for leisure time entertainment, streaming is another black spot in terms of energy consumption. Emmanuelle Frenoux is formal: “To put less stress on the network and therefore reduce consumption, we must reduce the use of transmission. » If all users stopped watching VOD, “It would save 80% of the bandwidth”, as well as all the electricity used for its operation, details the researcher. However, less drastic gestures are possible, says Anne Faure, who suggests “reduce video quality”, or even from “download them when possible”.

By disabling smartphone tracking or turning off devices when not in use, “More sober, simple and effective uses of the Internet are possible” to consume less energy, concludes the France Strategy project manager. A solution for save some money this winter and, at the same time, a gesture for the planet.

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