Energy Consumption and Sustainability

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The Internet Computer and its community are committed to sustatinability. Sustainability is one of the core design goals of the IC, together with the goals of scalability, usability, storage, and security built into the IC by default.

Sustainability timeline

Earth Day 2022. On April 22nd 2022 there was a motion proposal requesting to measure the sustainability of the IC. The motion proposal passed and was assigned to DFINITY to work on producing measurements.

June 2nd 2022 Carbon Crowd proposed to compute the carbon footprint of the Internet Computer. Requiring each other's skills, Carbon Crowd and DFINITY joined efforts to capture energy consumption readings from nodes running the IC, and to compute the carbon footprint under a methodology developed by Carbon Crowd and audited by Fingreen AI.

October 5th 2022 This resulted in a report, jointly published Carbon Crowd and the DFINITY Foundation and was on Medium.

April 2023 Real-time analytics were exposed in the IC Dashboard API. Carbon Crowd launched a sustainability dashboard visualising the carbon footprint of the Internet Computer. Jointly, DFINITY and Carbon Crowd launched the Proof of Green initiative to bring transparency to the reporting of energy consumption and carbon emissions.

May 2023 Real-time analytics were shown on the IC Dashboard front page as well as on individual node pages, for which readings exist, see here for an example.

Carbon footprint methodology

To measure the carbon footprint of the IC, the energy consumption of some nodes is first measured, then extrapolated the average to all nodes, then weight the node average consumption by the emissions factor of the node's region. This methodology is put forward by Carbon Crowd, and audited by Fingreen AI. The Internet Computer has 275 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Energy consumption

The energy consumption of the Internet computer is approximated by measuring nodes on various subnets, averaging them, and extrapolating to all nodes.

The average energy consumption of an Internet Computer node is 0.232KWh.

Assuming a power usage effectiveness (PUE) 1, 2, of 2.33 that leads to a total power consumption of 1631.0 W including cooling and other data center operations costs.

Given a total of 518 nodes and 11 boundary nodes in mainnet, resulting in a worst case of 862799W to operate all IC nodes for mainnet (including also system subnets). This is a worst case analysis for power consumption of nodes as it is expected for them to throttle when not fully utilized and thereby reducing power consumption. Given the maximum rate of updates and queries that are currently supported in the IC, one update call would consume 38.95 J (Joules) and one query call 0.59 J. These figures are for a hypothetically fully utilized IC. With the current approximate rate of 3300 transactions/s, the IC uses 261.45J per transaction.

In the future, the energy consumption will be much lower as the overhead of the system subnets will be comparatively smaller, boundary nodes will contain caching, and the replica software much more optimised.

Putting this in context

Even with conservative estimations, the energy consumption of the Internet Computer is substantially lower than competing blockchain projects, but also existing (highly optimized) web2 tech. See the table below to put IC performance in perspective. Correct as of May 2022.

Energy consumption comparison
Source Cost (measured in Joules (J))
One Internet Computer transaction 261 J
One Solana transaction 1'837 J[1]
One Ethereum 2 transaction 126'000 J[2]
One Cardano transaction 1'972'440 J[3]
One Ethereum transaction 692'820'000 J[4]
One Bitcoin transaction 6'995'592'000 J[5]