When digital video and music streaming was first released, it was marketed as a “green” alternative to buying traditional disks. Unfortunately, the times have changed. Music and video streaming may actually do more harm to the environment than we think.

Though there is no waste, there is energy consumption. For example, when a user downloads 12 different TV shows, they are typically not compressed. Because of this the user will use more energy downloaded each of these files than they would have use if a company simply produced and even shipped those 12 TV shows on disks to them.

Global digital traffic is estimated to hit 1 yottabyte by the year 2027. That number would mean that more than one fifth of the world’s current electricity consumption for 2010 would be devoted to just streaming.

Where is the Energy Coming From?

It is not your computer that is sucking up all of the energy. Though your computer uses a great deal more energy to stream over the web, the real energy draw is from the server farms and data centers that have to host these streaming sites. With their server capacities working at their maximum and their facilities having to keep up, the amount of energy being consumed is insurmountable. 

energy efficient computing


The Music Industry is Not Ready to Help Out

The best way to help with the streaming electricity consumption is for music companies to load all of their music online to a cloud drive and then allow users to access that with a password and user account. By doing so there are less streaming sites running one file at a time and pulling energy from data centers on a constant basis. Unfortunately, the music industry does not see the solution as being that simple. Music companies feel that loading their information all to one cloud drive will put them at risk for hacking, illegal use and tampering.

Sadly, the 1 petabyte drive needed to do this very thing only costs $100 and could save billions in energy.


[Image via jadama]