When you plug your smart phone into the wall, it draws a negligible amount of energy compared with other household electronics such as your set-top box or refrigerator. But add in the amount of electricity it takes to move data across networks to deliver a total of, say, an hour of video to your smart phone or tablet each week, and over a year it adds up to more power than two new Energy Star refrigerators consume in a year. And though phones and other electronics and appliances are becoming ever more efficient, that efficiency does not offset the proliferation of these devices around the world. A new paper, “The Cloud Begins With Coal: Big Data, Big Networks, Big Infrastructure, and Big Power," [PDF] investigates the energy draw of information-communications technologies (ICT) and how they are dwarfing what we traditionally think of as energy hogs in the home. The paper was commissioned by the U.S. National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. The global ICT ecosystem uses about 1500 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, which is equal to the electricity used by Japan and Germany combined. That figure will only increase, especially as cloud architecture overtakes wired networks.