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EETD Researchers Form Network to Study Energy Use, Environmental Impacts of Information Technology

EETD researchers are studying the energy use and environmental impacts of PCs, networks, and other technologies of the new economy. They are doing this work with the primary tool of the new economy—the Internet—in collaboration with researchers at universities and private corporations. The Network for Energy, Environment, Efficiency, and the Information Economy (N4E) is the brainchild of Environmental Energy Technologies Division scientist Jonathan Koomey, head of a research group that studies the energy consumption of end-use technologies such as office equipment and household appliances.

"N4E conducts research on the physical aspects of information technology, focusing on resource flows, energy use, and environmental impacts associated with computing and network equipment," says Koomey. "We are tracking equipment sales, materials use and reuse, energy use, and emissions. We also estimate stocks of equipment based on lifetimes and survey data. N4E also operates a discussion forum on its Web site, where analysts can post questions and receive responses from other experts in the field." According to Koomey, this kind of information can help answer questions about the direct effect of the explosion in computing and communications technologies on electricity use in the U.S., and the net environmental effects of telecommuting and Web-based commerce.

Research members from universities and independent research organizations compile data and conduct technical analysis related to resource flows in the information economy. They gain access to the network's expertise and data, in exchange for contributing their own. Current research partners include scientists at the University of California at Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon University, MIT, and AT&T.

"N4E is expanding its research and actively recruiting new members for its network of affiliated researchers," says Koomey."Research affiliates contribute data, in-kind support, and technical expertise, in exchange for access to the most current research results as they emerge." To become a member, go to the group's web site and sign up (it's free).

Berkeley Lab's focus in N4E is on the direct energy and resource use of the information economy. More information is posted at Information Technology and Resource Use website. Ongoing research efforts among other N4E members include green design and manufacturing in industries such as electronics, computers, aerospace, cars, and construction; environmental implications of telecommunications services, computer recycling, environmentally conscious engineering, product and process design; and manufacturing and architecture.

— Allan Chen

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