With iOS 16.1, iPhone users in the United States can choose to charge their devices only with “green” electricity.
Apple’s Clean Energy Charging works by accessing a forecast of your local energy grid’s carbon emissions and then charging only when those emissions are lower. This may appear to be a minor change, but consider the following: it is enabled by default on all iPhones running iOS 16.1, and hundreds of millions of iPhones are in use worldwide, all of which require charging.
- Clean Energy Charging exclusively uses low-carbon electricity to charge the iPhone.
- In iOS 16.1, it is enabled by default.
- If you add up the hundreds of millions of iPhones sold worldwide, this could be massive.
“Every day, 16 billion mobile devices around the world require charging. The average consumption of these devices may be greater than that of a country such as Denmark “Aimee Howard, a renewable energy specialist with 28 years in the aviation industry developing power electronics for sustainable manufacturing, told Lifewire via email.
When I noticed this function, my immediate thinking was, “Why doesn’t the grid store its own lower-carbon power and use it instead of producing more polluting energy?” However, the solution is more complicated.
The grid can store electricity, and the ways it does so are strange enough to warrant a look here. This is especially true when using renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, or wave power, which generate electricity on their own schedule rather than when demand is at its peak.
What Apple is doing is making it easier for iPhone users to become more aware of their role in reducing carbon emissions.
Batteries may be the first thing that comes to mind, but they have the same drawbacks as the batteries in our electronics. They frequently use pricey lithium-ion batteries, which can be detrimental to the environment if not disposed of properly. Furthermore, electricity does not have to be kept as electricity. It is capable of being turned into various forms of energy.
For example, utilising extra power to pump water back up to a reservoir stores the energy as potential energy, which may then be released by allowing the water to flow back down and generating electricity. It can also be stored as kinetic energy in a flywheel. According to the EPA, these flywheels can rotate at up to 60,000 RPM and spin in a vacuum on magnetic bearings.
Compressed air and ice can also be used to store electricity.
The issue with all of these is that they are inefficient. The energy used in the conversion is lost as heat. This is where Clean Energy Charging comes into play.
Clean Energy Charging
Waiting for times of reduced carbon emissions allows you to use excess energy directly rather than storing it. This is useful for charging electronics because it stores the energy until it is needed. It can also be used in various domestic scenarios; for example, several countries offer cheaper electricity during off-peak hours, so you can run the dishwasher overnight.
Other tasks require more time. You must make your dinner around dinnertime, for example, unless you are a huge fan of cold meats and leftovers.
Apple’s switch to Clean Energy Charging may not make much of a difference to you as an individual, but the impact can be equally large due to the massive installed base of iPhones.
“[S]mall changes pile up over time. Apple is assisting iPhone users in becoming more aware of their role in decreasing carbon emissions “Green Building Elements’ Sarah Jameson informed Lifewire via email. “It serves as a reminder of the importance of reducing carbon emissions and that even seemingly insignificant activities, such as charging your phone when power grids are less constrained and more clean energy capacity is available, are significant in the grand scheme of things.”
And this feature has the potential to raise awareness about how the energy grid works and how we can save resources and money in other areas other than charging our phones.
Right now, this is only available on iPhones in the United States, but if it works out and the energy forecast data is available, there’s no reason to think it won’t eventually make its way to Macs, iPads, and Apple Watches. In this case, the consequences could be enormous.