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Thursday, October 2, 2008

How Many Mobile Phone Users Does it Take to Power a Light Bulb?

It depends on the screen technology and the type of light bulb.

I spoke at the Green ICT Workshop of the European American Business Council last week. The main theme was how the role of ICT in the environment should inform government policy. It was interesting being in a forum that included both European and American perspectives. Although there are some contrasts in approach, the overwhelming sense was of the common ground of the potential for the industry to help drive energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

In the process, speakers shared some interesting statistics that show how much potential there is for our industry to continually reduce emissions. For example, Jennifer Sanford of Cisco noted that the carbon emissions of a single plane flight are equivalent to 97 telepresence sessions.

What about the mobile phone users to whom I first referred?

Asfaw Negeri from Ericsson said that today’s mobile phones produce about 24kg of CO2 per year – already a significant order of magnitude decrease on older generations of handsets, and forecast to continue decreasing. 24kg CO2 for the year is about the same as driving a mid-sized car for an hour.

Cheryl Schwartzman, speaking for Qualcomm, described one way some of those future reductions might be achieved. Their new Mirasol display screens for mobile phones and hand-held devices consume 1mW to operate, compared with 240 mW for the standard screens that we have on our phones today. Cheryl explained that screens are such a significant part of the drain on displays that the benefits can increase battery life by 30%.

And where do the light bulbs come into it ?

Bill Morin from Applied Materials referred to the potential future energy reductions from LED-based light bulbs, according to the Next-Generation Lighting Industry Alliance. LEDs are anticipated to be twice as efficient as even CFLs.

Loads of potential from known technologies, let alone from what is yet to come.

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