Open Source Software Efficiency Project

Optimizing Open Source software projects for performance offers huge potential to save energy on a globally relevant scale.

Countless open source libraries (such as OpenSSL, jQuery, Python etc.) build the very foundation of modern information societies. Given their nature as software libraries, they are often hidden from users and yet perform crucial tasks all the time. While there are many efforts to increase software security of these projects, there is no coordinated effort to improve their performance and thereby reduce energy consumption. Since many of these projects are supported on a volunteer basis and given the sheer amount of usage, the potential to save energy on a global scale is tremendous. By the year 2030, it is estimated that 20% of global electricity usage will be powering information technology [1]. Assuming 2022 levels of electricity consumption [2] and a mere 1% efficiency gain, the potential to save electricity is in the range of 27 TWh per year. While still a conservative estimate, this corresponds to roughly the output of 4 large nuclear or coal power plants.

An efficient way to improve on this situation could be a publicly and privately sponsored foundation that:

  • Employs a small number of software engineers to increase performance in often-used software libraries by directly contributing code
  • Lists efficient alternatives to widely used libraries
  • Encourages open source developers to make performance a forethought in all projects

[1] Andrae, Anders & Edler, Tomas. (2015). On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030. Challenges. 6. 117-157. 10.3390/challe6010117.

[2] https://ourworldindata.org/electricity-mix

Group Leader

Rebecca Meißner, Lindau Alumna 2019

Swarovski Optik, Austria