I get slightly stressed just by coming home to see that one of the lights has been on all day, with nobody home. At the same time I hardly think about the fact that the computer is still on stand by mode day after day. Electricity is produced all the time, and is always available when I need it, but how do I know if the power I use is environmentally friendly? So what is green electricity, really? Also, what about one of our biggest and most successful services online – SVT Play. Is it run on green power?
Green power is electricity produced by renewable energy sources, such as hydropower or wind power. Although I buy green electricity from my power company, I cannot count on that the electricity I actually use is produced by renewable energy sources, since all energy users and suppliers are connected to the same power grid. The power companies do guarantee that the amount of electricity their customers consume is produced by an energy supplier that produces green power. This is done by buying Renewable Energy Certificates that ensures what kind of energy source the electricity comes from.
In the energy agreement that we have at SVT Stockholm, we have chosen green power. This means that we buy 100% renewable energy – in this case it’s 100% hydropower.
Electricity played a remarkably small part of the total greenhouse gas emissions from SVT in 2015. SVT Stockholm, who is the largest energy user within SVT, had a greenhouse gas emission level (as a result of electricity usage) of zero. The reason is that we use 100% renewable energy.
The biggest external partners that we work with today to run SVT Play are Akamai and Amazon (AWS). It is important for SVT that they have a long-term plan for renewable energy.
AWS has a long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy usage. They exceeded their goal of 40% renewable energy by the end of 2016, and have set a new goal to be powered by 50% renewable energy by the end of 2017. Akamai used 16% renewable energy in 2016 but has a goal to reach 50% in 2020.
However, these policies are set on a global level and we know that the numbers on the Scandinavian market is better than that. So most likely, the share of green electricity that is used from external suppliers to run SVT Play is higher than what the figures above indicate.
Both AWS and Akamai are emphasizing the importance of not just thinking about renewable power but also to work in an energy efficient way. For example making sure that their servers are not using more electricity than needed. The energy consumption of SVT’s servers have decreased greatly in recent years because we have replaced the servers by more energy efficient ones and increased the level of server virtualization. Normally servers are changed every 4-6 years, mainly due to other reasons than energy efficiency, however this is a welcomed upside. If you would change servers more frequently in order to get more efficient hardware it would mean that new servers would need to be manufactured, which would lead to more waste and unnecessary transports. So that is also something to consider when looking at the servers’ environmental impact.
Good to know is that all of this applies to normal operation of the servers. If something would happen that requires the reserve units to start up we would not be running on 100% green power anymore – since the reserve units are run by diesel generators. However, it is such a small part of consumption in a year that it can hardly be measured.
In order to lead an environmentally friendly life it is good to understand what drives energy consumption and what can be done to improve efficiency in the use of energy. I know for sure I will be more diligent in turning off my home electronics as much as possible, to avoid that stand by mode, just as much as I will care about the light being turned off when I’m not at home. I do feel confident that we are doing a good job at SVT to stay environmentally friendly, and that we will keep improving. This helps put my conscience at rest.