If you are reading this on a portable device, chances are that it is utilising some of the most advanced green technology currently available, such as low-voltage processors, e-ink screens and a new generation of Lithium-Ion batteries with significantly higher life-spans. Should you have chosen to read this outside of your home or office, you are likely making use of servers and communication infrastructure that deliver the content to you, and if you are not careful enough, you may get hit by one of the world’s almost one million hybrid vehicles on the road. Energy conservation and minimisation of the carbon footprint will be major demand drivers going forward. However, the success of energy saving technologies hinges on their ability to provide the consumer with tangible, positive, material utility.
Cloud computing is seen as one of the most prospective green trends in consumer electronics. This technology enables users to store and process data on remote servers and access them using portable computing devices. Cloud computing gave way to a rise in low powered mobile computers, such as netbooks which use low voltage processors extending the battery life of the device. This minimises the environmental impact by centralising storage and processing capabilities in data centres, making portable computers more energy efficient and easing the burden on the Lithium-Ion batteries powering the devices, the disposal of which is a significant environmental challenge. For the consumer, this means easier data access, lower-priced, more capable devices and longer product service lives making the technology successful.
Energy consumption by data centres has been a source of controversy for major web service providers. Most notably Facebook has come under attack from Greenpeace for using electricity from Pacific Power in its new, energy efficient data centre in Oregon. The environmentalists took issue with the fact that Pacific Power gets 58% of its energy from coal, compared to a 50% national average. While the reaction of the group is not surprising and may well be exaggerated, concerns about consumption of energy by data centres and the sources of this energy did not stop 500 million people from spending countless hours rescuing virtual sheep, knifing members of rival virtual gangs, and liking everything from Weber’s Theory of Magnetism to Lady Gaga’s meat dress.
Implementing Mass Energy Efficiency
While natural and green trends have been able to command a price premium in food, beverages, and cosmetics and gain wide acceptance in the developed markets, the proliferation of green consumer electronics has been slower. We do not have to look far for examples of humanity’s general ignorance to green technology that fails to deliver an economic benefit. It took the hybrid car 97 years to make its way from the Mixte presented at the Paris auto show in 1900 to mass production of the Toyota Prius in Japan. Consumer electronics has been much better about implementing eco-friendly features into the devices, but demand has not always kept up.