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Energy Intensity of Computer Manufacturing

Energy Intensity of Computer Manufacturing

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Eric Williams UN University 2004
Eric Williams UN University 2004

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Published by: fat_knowledge on Mar 07, 2007
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Energy Intensity of ComputerManufacturing: Hybrid AssessmentCombining Process and EconomicInput
-
Output Methods
E R I C W I L L I A M S *
United Nations University, 53-70 Jingumae 5-chome,Shibuya-ku Tokyo, Japan
The total energy and fossil fuels used in producing adesktop computer with 17-in. CRT monitor are estimatedat 6400 megajoules (MJ) and 260 kg, respectively. Thisindicates that computer manufacturing is energy intensive: the ratio of fossil fuel use to product weight is 11, anorder of magnitude larger than the factor of 1
-
2 for manyother manufactured goods. This high energy intensity ofmanufacturing, combined with rapid turnover in computers,results in an annual life cycle energy burden that issurprisingly high: about 2600 MJ per year, 1.3 times thatof a refrigerator. In contrast with many home appliances, lifecycle energy use of a computer is dominated by production(81%) as opposed to operation (19%). Extension ofusable lifespan (e.g. by reselling or upgrading) is thus apromising approach to mitigating energy impacts as well asotherenvironmentalburdensassociatedwithmanufacturingand disposal.
1. Introduction
Information Technology (IT) continues to change how wedo business, research, and even socialize. Pundits speak of IT as a revolution as important as the adoption of electricity or the combustion engine. Given the extent to whichcomputers have affected our daily lives, it is difficult todisagree. Technological revolutions also affect the environ-mental challenges faced by societies and how to respond tothem.AsInformationTechnologyisconcernedwithmovinandprocessingbitsinsteadofmass,itsdirectenvironmentalconsequences should not be as severe as, say, adoption of the combustion engine. Nonetheless, the environmentalimpacts associated with the physical IT infrastructure (i.e.computers,peripherals,andcommunicationsnetworks)aresignificant.Manyinrichcountriesusetwoormorecomputers(e.g.oneforhome,oneforwork).Rapidtechnologicalchangeimplies that users buy new computers far more often thanmany other durable goods. Indeed, the problem of what todowithwastecomputersisofsufficientconcernthatregionsand nations around the world are enacting legislation tomandate take-back and recycling systems, such as theEuropeanUnionDirectivesonWasteElectricalandElectronicEquipment(WEEE)andRestrictiononHazardousSubstances(RoHS) (
1
).Environmental assessment is key in formulating ap-propriatesocietalresponsetotheenvironmentalimpactsof IT. A recent study of semiconductors estimated that manu-facture of a 2-g memory chip requires at least 630 times its weight in fossil fuels and chemicals, orders of magnitudehigherthanthefactorof1
-
2foranautomobileorrefrigerator(
 2 
). The authors argue that the origin of this high materialsintensityisduetotheadditionalprocessingneededtoattainthe highly organized, low entropy structure of microchips. A weakness of the previous comparison, however, is that achipisonlyacomponent.Itmustbeintegratedintoadeviceto deliver a useful information service. It is thus desirable toupgrade the analysis to address a final end product. Thedesktop computer remains the workhorse of informationtechnology and thus is chosen as the focus of the currentstudy. There are a number of environmental issues of potential concern associated with computers, including energy use, chemical exposure to workers in high-techfactories, and health impacts on those involved in backyardcomputer recycling in the developing world. While broadassessment of a variety of impacts is needed to understandthe full effect of computers on the environment, practicalconsiderationsconstrainthecurrentstudytoanalysisofonly energy use. In conclusion, the target is estimation of theenergy consumed in the network of production processes yielding a desktop computer with 17-in. CRT monitor.Thereareseveralexistinganalysesofmaterialsandenerguseinproducingcomputers.In1993,aconsortiumfacilitatedby a consulting firm and including many U.S. high-techmanufacturers,publishedastudyreportingthatproductionofaworkstationrequires8300megajoules(MJ)ofelectricity,63 kg of chemical waste, and 27 700 kg of water (
3
). TheEuropean Union commissioned a 1998 study whose resultsinclude 3630 MJ of energy use and 2.6 million kg of waterconsumption for manufacturing a desktop computer withmonitor (
4
). The latter figure for water use is an obviousoverestimateasitimpliesworldcomputerproductionin2000of120millioncomputersrequires40%ofworldwideindustrial water consumption. A few other studies exist (some by computer manufacturers), but these contain even lessreportingofdataandassumptionsthanthetwomentioned.Therearefourmainweaknessesintheexistingliterature.One is that studies are mainly based on proprietary orconfidential data. These are not reported, and it is thusimpossible to deconstruct results. Second, there is little orno critical discussion of underlying data and assumptions,norcomparisonofresultswithexistingwork.Properreportinofdataandassumptionsaswellascomparisonwithexistin work are two key elements of any analysis attempting tomodel itself on the scientific method. Third, many steps inthe network of manufacturing processes have been left out,inparticularthoseproducingspecializedmaterialssupplyinthe electronics industry, such as silicon wafers and high-grade chemicals. The fourth issue is lack of consideration of how data might vary from facility to facility and nation tonation. These issues stand out as weaknesses not only foranalyses of computers but also for many existing environ-mentalassessmentsofawiderangeofproductsandservices.This study addresses these gaps in the literature with ananalysisthatreports
all 
dataandassumptions,viaamethodthat combines process and economic techniques so as tocover the manufacturing network as fully as possible.Geographical variations in data are partially accounted for,and when not, uncertainties induced by using national dataestimated.
2. Methodology
 Assessmentofthenetenvironmentalimpactsassociatedwithdelivering a product or service started in the 1970s with netenergy analysis, which has since expanded to become a
* Corresponding author phone: 81-3-5467-1352; fax: 81-3-3406-7346; e-mail: Williams@hq.unu.edu.
Environ. Sci. Technol.
2004
,
38,
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ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY / VOL. 38, NO. 22, 2004 10.1021/es035152j CCC: $27.50
©
2004 American Chemical SocietyPublished on Web 10/16/2004
 
broaderfieldknownaslifecycleassessment(LCA).The“lifecycle” in LCA refers to the attempt to characterize environ-mentalimpactsfromcradletograve,startingfromextractionofresources,followingproductionofrawmaterialsandparts,assembly, sales, to use and disposal of a product. There aretwo basic approaches to estimating life cycle requirementsofmaterialsandenergy: process-sumandeconomicinput
-
output (IO). The process-sum approach is based on using facility-leveldatadescribingindustrialprocessesintermsof the material inputs of consumables, outputs of products,and emissions (
). Process-sum also implies a method:buildingthenetworkofindustrialactivitiespieceandpiece,stoppingwheneitherdatalimitationsorotherconsiderationsmakefurtherexpansioninfeasible.Thisistermedsettingthesystem boundary.The other approach, economic input
-
output (IO), isbased on IO tables that describe financial transactionsbetween sectors in a national economy (
,
). The mostdetailed tables divide an economy into 400
-
500 aggregatedsectors. One consequence of the completeness and math-ematical simplicity of IO tables is that incorporating higherorderflows(e.g.useforsteeltoproducetheironoreneededto make steel) can be easily accomplished using techniquesdeveloped by Leontief. The basic formula used to calculatethe net energy used to produce a unit of economic outputfor economic sectors is where E
SC
is the vector of supply chain energy intensities(MJ/$), E
D
represents direct energy intensity, and A is therequirements matrix (A 
mn
)
transaction from sector m ton/total economic output of sector n). The energy require-ments to manufacture a given product is determined by multiplying the supply chain intensity of the relevant sectorby the producer price of the product.Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. Pro-cess-sumanalysiscanmoreaccuratelydescribetheparticulartechnologies by which a product is made. Input
-
outputtables aggregate many implementations and types of pro-cesses into one sector. For instance, production of copper,aluminum,zinc,lead,cadmium,tin,nickel,andothermetalsisusuallycombinedintoasingle“nonferrousmetals”sectors.Energyusetoproducethesedifferentmetals,however,doesnot correlate well with price. On the other hand, process-sum analyses often leaves out important contributions,especially due to production of capital goods and input of services, which are not easily accounted for in the mass-centric perspective of process-sum analysis.Researchershavebeenexploringwaystoleverageprocessandeconomicinput
-
outputmethodssuchastoreducetheboundarycutofferrorintheformerandaggregationerrorof the latter. This is termed hybrid analysis, the basic premiseof which was articulated by Bullard, Penner, and Pulati in1978 (
8
). Their analysis focused on trying to identify whatcomponentsofanIOanalysismighthavelargestuncertaintfor replacement with process data. Engelenburg and col-laborators developed a method in which process data aresupplementedbyIOanalysisestimatingcontributionsfromcapital goods, services, and other missing processes, which was applied to the case of a refrigerator (
). Heijungsintegrated process and IO frameworks into a unified math-ematical form, which express the entire system via a mixedunit matrix containing environmental, mass, and economicdata(
10 
).Joshi,workingwithintheIOmethod,usedprocessdatatofurtherdisaggregatecertaineconomicsectorswhereaggregation error is expected to be significant (
11
).
Proposed Method for Separative Hybrid Analysis.
Thetarget of the current work is modification of the subset of “separative” hybrid methods. The starting point is therequirement that process-sum and IO correction can beexpressed as the addition of two (separated) factors While more complex formulations in which process dataare incorporated into generalized IO matrices (
10 
,
11
) arealso possible, there are cogent practical considerationsfavoring a separative form. While the data elements neededtoperformanenvironmentalIOanalysisarepubliclyavailable(specifically the IO tables and direct sectoral energy con-sumption), building one up from scratch is extremely laborintensive. One advantage of a separative method is that theresults of existing energy IO analyses (e.g. from the GreenDesign Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (
12 
)) can beused with minor modifications. Also, simplicity eases evalu-ation of data and results and also makes the method moreaccessible to those not expert in the specialized field of IOanalysis.ThekeyquestionishowtodefinetheIOcorrectionfactor.One specific proposal is described below, in which the totalIO correction factor is considered to be a sum of additiveand “remaining value” terms:E
 A 
is the additive factor, which accounts for thoseindustriesforwhichspecificeconomic(butnotprocess)dataon requirements per product is available. Let j be an index denoting sectors for which such economic data can beobtained. The additive correction factor is where Exp
 j
are expenditures in monetary terms on sector/activityjperunitproductandE
SC j
isthesupplychainenergy intensity (eq 1). Care must be taken not to double countactivities such as materials production already covered inthe process-sum analysis; these are subtracted from E
SC j
by hand.The “remaining value” factor, E
RV 
, estimates the contri-bution from those processes not included in either process-sum or additive IO terms, by accounting for how much of the total economic value of the product has been covered.Let k denote a set of processes treated in the process-sumanalysis. The economic value covered by the process-sumanalysis is defined as where “valuc-added” is a modified version of value-addedas defined in the U.S. Annual Survey of Manufactures (
13
))Therootofthisdefinitionistheobservationthatdataforagivenprocessusuallycoverdirectenergyusebutnotenergy consumed in production of inputs materials, services, andcapital goods. The term “valuc-added” is a mnemonicindicating that it differs from value-added by addition of eforenergyandsubtractionofcforcapital.Valuc-addedshareis the ratio of valuc-added over total sector shipments.The value covered in the additive IO analysis (E
 A 
) is
E
SC
)
E
D
(1
-
 A)
-
1
(1)total energy 
)
process-sum result
+
IO correction factor (2)IO correction factor
)
E
 A 
+
E
RV 
(3)E
 A 
)
Σ
Exp
 j
E
SC j
(4) V 
P
)
Σ
Exp
valuc-added share
(5)valuc-added
)
shipments
-
materials (nonenergy)
-
services
-
capital
)
value-added
+
energy 
-
capital(6) V 
 A 
)
Σ
Exp
 j
(7)
VOL. 38, NO. 22, 2004 / ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
9
6167
 
Thus, the total remaining value not yet covered isGiventhis,themanufacturingenergyassociatedwiththeremaining value is estimated by The sum is over a set of IO sectors (denoted by the index l) that excludes those already covered in the process andadditive IO analyses, and value share is the relative fractionof supply chain purchases for each respective sector.Tosumup,theflowofthemethodisasfollows: 1.Performprocess-sumanalysisviaconventionalmeans: E
P
.2.Forthoseprocesses for which product specific economic data areavailable, calculate additive IO corrections, E
 A 
, via [4]. 3.Estimatevaluecoveredinprocess-sumanalysis,
P
,viavaluc-added[5,6].4.EstimatevaluecoveredinadditiveIOanalysis, V 
 A 
,via[7].5.Calculateremainingvalue,RV,via[8].6.Estimateassociated energy, E
RV 
, via [9]. 7. Sum total energy 
)
E
P
+
E
 A 
+
E
RV 
. While the above method is similar to existing work in itsoverall flow, the proposal to account for economic value viavaluc-added is apparently new. The closest method is thatofEngelenburgandcollaborators(
).Theyallocateaccordinto the full market price for raw materials full market price,andformanufacturingprocesses,onlythepricepaidbyfirmsfor energy is subtracted. I argue that valuc-added (or evenvalue-added) is a much more appropriate definition. Al-locatingthefullpriceofmaterialsassumesthatthosesectorsimputing into materials production have been accountedfor, which is generally not the case. Allocating energy costsformanufacturingsectorsassignsnearzerovaluetomostof them, shunting most product value to the residual sectors. Yetitisclearinanyeconomicaccountingthatmanufacturinsectorshaveanontrivialshareofthevalueofamanufacturedgood. Using valuc-added addresses both of these points as well as treats all sectors covered in the process analysissymmetrically.
3. Case Study of a Desktop Computer
The case study applies the above methodology to assess theenergyusedinthechainofmanufacturingprocessesyielding an “average” desktop computer with a 17 in. CRT monitor,produced in the year 2000. As the hybrid method combinesprocess-sumandIOmethods,thedefinitionofthefunctionalunit includes both physical and economic characteristics.These are to be detailed in later sections, but as a preview note that the average global producer price of a desktopsystemin2000was$1700(
14
).Atypicalmachinesoldatthatprice in July 2000 was equipped with Pentium III 733 MHzprocessor, 128MB DRAM, and 30GB hard drive.The manufacturing network for almost any productencompasses firms in two or more nations. The productionof computers, a highly globalized industry, is hardly anexception.Thisraisesthequestionofwhetherdatagatheredinoneregionwillapplytoanother.Anequallyvalidconcernis whether two different facilities will have similar environ-mentalcharacteristics.Limitationsonavailabledataprecludetrackingbackthegeographicalandfacilitycharacteristicsof each step and only using figures applying to that region orfactory. As in previous environmental assessments, assump-tions are made in which data for one region/facility areconsidered to be more general than is actually the case. Forthe process-sum analysis, every effort is made to gatherinternationaldatasoastoarriveatareasonableglobalaveragefor the industry. For the IO analysis, global producer pricesare used, and it is assumed that the U.S. IO table is in facta global one. This assumption no doubt leads to significanterror,butintheabsenceofagenerallyavailableinternationalIO table, necessary. In Section 8, the error induced by thisassumption is estimated. Specifically, the Carnegie MellonUniversitycalculationsusingthe1997U.S.Benchmarktable(
12 
) are used throughout the IO analysis.Process-sum life cycle assessment is based on the so-called system boundary, which delineates what processesare included in the analysis and which are not. For a hybridanalysis, the generalized system boundary describes how process and IO portions interrelate. This is graphicalldepicted in Figure 1. Energy use in production and distribu-
FIGURE 1. Generalized system boundary (some arrows indicating intersector flows have been abbreviated).
RV 
)
remaining value
)
producer price
-
 V 
P
-
 V 
 A 
(8)E
RV 
)
RV 
Σ
(value share
l
)E
SCl
(9)
6168
9
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY / VOL. 38, NO. 22, 2004

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