Watching online video isn’t quite as bad for the environment as previously thought.
According to new research from the Carbon Trust, the average carbon footprint in Europe per hour of video streaming is approximately 55gCO2e, equivalent to boiling an average electric kettle three times. In fact, one boil of a standard electric kettle equates to watching 19 minutes of online video. The figure does not include live streaming.
According to the Trust, the latest findings are comparable with some other recent estimates, but are lower than some previous studies, mainly due to older energy intensity figures being significantly higher than figures relevant to 2020.
The analysis also showed that device audiences watch content on is typically responsible for the largest part (more than 50 per cent) of the overall carbon footprint.
It says the carbon footprint of watching online video on a 50-inch TV is roughly 4.5 times more than watching on a laptop, and 90 times that of watching on a smartphone.
Changes in video quality, due to different viewing resolutions and settings – like changing from HD to SD – were found to have only a very small change on the carbon impact.
The white paper has been developed by the Carbon Trust, in consultation with members of DIMPACT – a collaborative project of researchers from the University of Bristol and 13 global media companies – and has been funded by Netflix.
Andie Stephens, associate director at the Carbon Trust and lead author of the white paper, said: “Our white paper shows that the carbon footprint of watching an hour of streamed video content is minor compared with other daily activities. As the electricity grids continue to decarbonise, and telecoms network operators increasingly power their networks with renewable electricity this impact is set to reduce even further.
“By undertaking this research with the support of the industry and academic experts, we hope to help inform discussions about the carbon impact of video streaming and of wider ICT use, and address some misunderstandings and outdated estimates that have been previously reported.”