The internet is a marvel of human accomplishment and a feat of technological engineering, which allows nearly instantaneous communication across the globe-an act once considered the stuff of science fiction. It has been lauded for its environmental benefits, such as reducing paper production and waste, but, as with any great accomplishment, there are unintended consequences. The increased proliferation of electronic devices to access the internet and the exponential advancement of those devices results in large amounts of electronic waste-a problem in its own right. Compounding the issue, for all of those internet-enabled devices to work, they must rely on the backbone of the internet: data servers. Data servers are connected by the thousands within data centers, and these centers must continuously draw electricity from the national electric grid to keep up with internet user demand. This overwhelming amount of energy and electricity consumption creates huge electricity bills for U.S. companies and produces millions of metric tons of toxic carbon emissions annually.
This Comment addresses the impacts of increased energy consumption by internet data centers and suggests a regulatory solution to make those data centers more energy efficient. Within the United States, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the best-suited agency to address the energy efficiency of the internet. Under the Federal Power Act-and consistent with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Act's language in New York v. FERC and FERC v. Electric Power Supply Ass'n-FERC has the authority to mandate efficiency standards for internet data centers because those data centers transmit electric energy in interstate commerce and may be considered transmission facilities. Overall, this Comment aims to suggest a regulatory means by which the United States can reduce its energy consumption, thereby harmonizing environmental and business concerns to allow for sustainable economic growth.