From Scott Carlberg

With the Academy Awards just happening, do you have an itch to stream some films? Those little electric signals that feed your TV add up. Netflix reported that its electricity usage jumped 84 percent in 2019. The company released its 2019 Environmental, Social and Governance Report. Good for Netflix for being open and transparent.

Netflix divides its power into two categories. “For the electricity we use ourselves, we try to be as efficient as possible. This includes the electricity we use directly in our own offices and studios. It also includes the telecommunications facilities that are part of our content delivery network.” The company logged 94,000 megawatt hours.

Indirect use is the second category. “Electricity we don’t use ourselves but is needed to deliver Netflix to everyone. This includes the energy use of companies we work with such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, and the power required to support the servers we install with internet providers.”

The company says it accounts for emissions for all power, “by matching them with regional renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets. This indirect energy use was about 357,000 megawatt hours in 2019.”

In total, “They could’ve powered 40,000 American homes for an entire year with that usage.” (Source)

Entertainment newspaper, Variety, reports, “All told, that’s up 84% from the 245,000 megawatt-hours Netflix said it used in 2018 (51,000 MWhs in direct and 194,000 MWhs indirect usage). That means the company’s energy consumption far outpaced its user growth: In 2019, Netflix’s worldwide paid subscriber base grew 20%, to 167.1 million the end of last year.”

Netflix counters emissions via renewable energy projects in 20 countries and 15 U.S. states (Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina in the Southeast).

“Is your Netflix habit bad for the environment?” That was asked by BBC just over a year ago. “Most of the world’s internet traffic goes through these data centres and they host streaming platforms such as Netflix, Facebook and YouTube. These data centres are estimated to currently consume at least 1% of the world’s electricity every year, a figure that is expected to rise in the future. They also account for about 0.3% of global CO2 emissions.”

It is more than Netflix, too. “Hulu recently added over 400,000 new subscribers and now has 2.7 million subscribers. This not only makes Hulu the largest live TV streaming service but the fastest growing live TV streaming service in the United States.” (Source)

Your clicks are not necessarily benign. That means that streaming services need to use renewable power, and we all need carbon-free power, to reduce the impact of our binge-worthy TV.