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University of Sussex Business School Report on 5G Energy Use Finds 5G Could CounterAct Energy Saving Potential

“This report confirms what we have been saying for years,” stated Theodora Scarato Executive Director of Environmental Heath Trust. “The demand for technology is outstripping the increase in efficiency.  The energy consumption from the proliferation of these new networks will rise sharply due to the ever increasing energy demands at every stage of the lifecycle of 5G equipment, from device manufacture to data centers to data transmissions, and networks.”

Excerpted from University of Sussex article by Neil Vowles (LINK)

A review by the University of Sussex Business School finds that the notion that 5G is green technology is not currently backed up by a strong, publicly available, fully transparent evidence base. The researchers did a literature review to examine whole network level assessments of the operational energy use implications of 5G, the embodied energy use associated with 5G, and indirect energy use effects associated with 5G-driven changes in user behaviour and patterns of consumption and production in other sectors of the economy.

Academics  from the Sussex Energy Group warn that the widespread adoption of unlimited data subscriptions for 5G users and the facilitation of advanced and data-intensive mobile services such as VR and more sophisticated mobile gaming could “encourage energy-intensive user practices, contribute to ever-growing levels of data traffic, and counteract the energy-saving potential of 5G efficiency improvements.”

The study was funded by the Centre for Research on Energy Demand Solutions

Recommendations from the study include:

  • Network operators and service providers should raise awareness among users and make information more transparent about the energy use implications of different practices such as streaming video over Wi-Fi rather than mobile data or sending a message by SMS rather than instant messaging.
  • App developers should also factor sustainability and energy efficiency considerations into the earliest design stages. 
  • Addressing embodied energy use such as prolonging the lifespans of infrastructure and devices, designing equipment to be easily upgraded and repaired, and improving the reusability and recyclability of equipment .

Benjamin Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex Business School was quoted by the University of Sussex as stating,  

“There has been insufficient ‘user-centric’ work focusing on the relationship between 5G energy use and user behaviour leaving unanswered questions about how and under what conditions 5G might become more or less energy intensive.”

“We also need greater resource and focus given over to the kinds of strategies that might be pursued by app designers, mobile operators, technology firms and governments aimed at reducing energy intensive behaviours particularly around flat pricing structures, declining per-bit data prices and the proliferation of unlimited data subscriptions which encourage wasteful practices and generate direct rebound effects.”

Tim Foxon, Professor of Sustainability Transitions in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex Business School, was quoted by the University of Sussex stating:

”Our review suggests that work on the energy use implications of 5G has overwhelmingly focused on the energy required to power mobile phone networks. However, the energy required to manufacture and install network equipment and manufacture mobile phones is a potentially important part of the puzzle that seems to be routinely overlooked in assessments of 5G’s energy use.”

Citation for Report

Williams, Laurence and Sovacool, Benjamin K. and Foxon, Timothy J., The energy use implications of 5G: Reviewing whole network operational energy, embodied energy, and indirect effects (January 13, 2022). Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 157 (2022) 112033, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4008530

The research paper warns that current studies into 5G energy use fail to properly account for:

  • the impact of the embodied energy associated with network infrastructure and user devices
  • direct rebound effects associated with 5G-driven changes in mobile device user behaviour
  • wider indirect energy use effects, including the scope for 5G to enable energy savings in other areas of economic and social life (so-called ‘enablement effects’)

The University of Sussex states, “The surprising lack of peer-reviewed, publicly available whole network level assessments on the energy use implications of 5G, and patchy disclosure of the key data and assumptions of those studies that do exist, currently make it impossible to conclude with any confidence that 5G will reduce the energy consumption of mobile networks.” 

The report entitled “The energy use implications of 5G: Reviewing whole network operational energy, embodied energy, and indirect effects” published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

Read the full details on the report at University of Sussex by Neil Vowles

Massive Increases in 5G Equipment = Massive Increases in Energy Use

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https://ehtrust.org/new-report-5g-is-not-so-green-and-could-increase-energy-use/ Source: Environmental Health Trust