The Increasing Value of Energy Efficiency: $2B in Energy Savings

It’s been a while since I blogged, so I’ve been anxious to share what I’ve observed in my many travels and conversations around the world. I just returned to the US from a trip to India, where I was impressed with the pace of activity around innovative new energy efficiency technologies, including governmental plans to help develop “smarter”, more efficient electricity transmission and distribution grids. And today at Oracle Open World, our CEO Paul Otellini delivered a keynote speech and cited that over the last two years our Intel Core microprocessors have contributed to a savings of 20 Terawatt (Tera = trillion) hours of energy. So I’m going to provide a little context for this figure.

Given that the global economy is increasingly information and technology driven, I’ve observed increased scrutiny by governments and NGO’s on the energy used by information technology and communications technology (ICT). Gartner has estimated that approximately 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions can be attributed to the energy necessary to build and power the world’s ICT. That is a sizeable number.

So where do microprocessors fit in? Through Moore’s Law we have been delivering performance and features that our customers demand, all while managing energy use within acceptable levels. But we wondered: all the while we’ve been delivering these performance improvements, have we also been able to reduce the energy used by our microprocessors? Are we able to “have our cake and eat it too”, as they say here in the US? I’m pleased to report that the answer is a resounding “yes”.

In 2006, Intel rolled out the Intel Core microprocessors for PCs, servers and laptops. We’ve also referred to this architectural shift as the “right hand turn” (the shift away from performance achieved primarily through clock-speed increases to improvements from the integration of additional processor cores on each chip). Intel’s engineers recently analyzed the difference in the power utilization of earlier generations of our processors, compared to the typical power utilization of today’s products – and considered the number of processors shipped and hours they were likely used in PCs, servers and laptops.

So what did we find? When we added up all the Watt-hours that were saved in the past 2 years as a result of Intel’s “right hand turn”, the calculations point to approximately 20 Terawatts hours less energy used, relative to what our prior generation of processors would have consumed in the same time window. Assuming an electricity cost of $0.10/kWhr (higher in some places, lower in others), this equates to $2B in energy cost savings to the global economy.

This is no small figure – it’s a significant amount of energy savings, and an example of what technology innovation by the ICT industry can do to improve energy efficiency on a large scale.

One Response to The Increasing Value of Energy Efficiency: $2B in Energy Savings

  1. Irene Mena says:

    Nice post! though I wouldn’t focus in the dollars so much (as this does not necessarily mean that the world would have spent the $2B if no change had been made), but more on what we have enabled. With the previous processors there’s only so much that could have been achieved – and thru the “right hand turn” we’ve allowed users to walk even further. It’s mesmerizing to see Intel’s impact in the world’s development.