Can Google really be the world's biggest user of electricity?

Martin Varsavsky: “It turns out that Google is by now the largest owner of computers in the world and that computers are consuming more and more of the electricity that is used in the world. Therefore Google has the largest utility bill in the planet.”

Sounds like the kind of urban myth that Google can usefully debunk. I couldn’t find a counter example quickly, but I find it difficult to believe that the world’s largest manufacturers, like GE, Toyota and GM, or the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, don’t use far more electricity than Google, however many server farms it may have.

2 thoughts on “Can Google really be the world's biggest user of electricity?

  1. Rob Ferguson

    Alcoa. Alcan. Anyone who manufactures aluminum. It uses STUPENDOUS amounts of power.

    Let’s look at Alcan. In 2005, they used 275 Million GJ (that’s Gigajoules) of engery to smelt aluminum alone. That doesn’t count the rest of their manufacturing process, packaging, etc.

    [http://www.publications.alcan.com/sustainability/2005/en/pages/issue_1_energy_overview.html]

    That’s 76.395 trillion kw-hours.

    If you allow that a typical PC draws (on average) 200W continuous, and there are 8760 hours in a year, that’s enough electricity to run 43.6 *million* PC’s for a year.

    [In point of fact, that’s probably a conservative number, for reasons that are too complicated to get into here.]

    QED.

    Reply
  2. Lance Knobel

    Of course. From the days when I wrote about such things, I remember that one of the few industries where Iceland had a comparative advantage was aluminum smelting. All that ridiculously cheap geothermal power gave it a real edge.

    Thanks for the informed comment, Rob.

    Reply

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